Gaming is always searching for its Citizen Kane, its Shakespeare, or its Roger Ebert, but what about its LeBron James? With the third season of the League of Legends Championship Series in full swing, the eSports phenomenon has entered a new phase: classification as a major sporting event.
"The United States Government recognizes League of Legends pro players as professional athletes and award visas to essentially work in the United States under that title. This is groundbreaking for eSports. Now we can start looking at international players - when they come over it's much easier to process because they're actually recognized by the government," said Riot Games' eSports manager Nick Allen on a GameSpot LCS interview last night. "This was a lengthy process and we had a lot of people fighting for this. It wasn't something that happened overnight."
USgamer reached out to Riot Games, who explained that professional LoL players are eligible for P-1A visas. These visas are frequently used in the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL to bring players over from other countries like Japan, the Dominican Republic, and Canada. These are non-immigrant visas, so players must return to their home countries after finishing the event.
The visa issue reared its ugly head earlier in Season 3 when Good Game University/Team Coast mid player Danny 'Shiphtur' Le was unavailable for play, as he resides in Canada. Fellow Team Coast player Justin 'Jintae' Dinh has been playing in Le's position while the issue was resolved.
Season 3 of the League of Legends Championship Series will run until August 31, with the top teams from the North American and European divisions moving on to the World Championship.