On August 7th, the L.A. Times reported that Canadian, Danny “Shiphtur” Le, pro League of Legends gamer would be granted a U.S. Visa–a first in the history of pro sports. Danny Le, while one of the world’s most elite players of the MMO game, is far from your typical understanding of what an athlete is. Most people are familiar with foreigners in sports like Baseball, Basketball, and even Hockey gaining entry into the U.S. under a pro-athlete Visa. Le, requiring a visa to practice with his California based squad, was actually rejected by the U.S. immigration before Riot Games (the developers of League of Legends) stepped in with their lawyers. After successfully making the case that Le’s request was no different than any other non-U.S. athlete’s request to join other sports associations, immigration officials had a change of heart.
As a gamer myself, I can completely relate and understand why gaming could actually be considered a pro sport. While in a traditional sense of sports, there’s no level of physical exertion even close to that of say, an NFL game; team based videogames takes a great deal of mental (strategy, timing) and physical (reflex, motor coordination) prowess to be good enough to compete on a global scale. Truly, it becomes a real sport when money and fans are thrown in the mix. League of Legends games that are broadcast online draw more than 1.7 M viewers. There are more than six U.S. teams that average a combined revenue of over $10 M.
With these points in mind is it still fair to call a pro-video gamer an athlete? In 2013 has the definition of athlete been completely turned on it’s head? Is there even such thing as a “pro” gamer? Share your thoughts below in the comments: