Competitive gaming, also known as eSports, recently made huge strides as the U.S. State Department now recognizes the official League of Legends tournament as a professional sport. The decision will allow gamers from other countries to move to the U.S. to compete in tournaments using a specific visa without having to go through a complicated series of applications.
Riot Games’ VP Dustin Beck said it was a watershed moment that validates e-sports as a sport. Gamers now have the same designation as the NBA, NHL or other professional sports leagues. Beck pointed out that convincing US immigration and Citizenship Services was a long process that hinged on proving that League of Legends can allow people to make a living as a professional.
A lot of people have been dismissive about it, Beck said, simply because they don’t understand the scope of the decision. To further drive the point across, the executive said their viewership numbers are stronger than 80 to 90 percent of the sports covered on ESPN.
Furthermore, non-American players may soon be able to join U.S. teams, much like how David Beckham was able to join the LA Galaxy soccer team.
The first person to benefit from the change looks to be Canadian gamer Danny “Shiptur” Le. He was unable to compete earlier this year due to work permit problems.
It’s worth mentioning that the recognition currently only applies to the eight processional teams in League of Legends and not any other eSports leagues although other leagues can now apply to be added to the list of recognized leagues, we’re told.