Shifting U.S. Attitudes Toward Competitive Esports

Introduction

For some time now, immigration opportunities for athletes in esports has been somewhat of an uphill struggle. The somewhat ambiguous language surrounding P-1 athlete visa left it unclear as to whether or not esports professionals would qualify for these sought-after visas. This all changed in 2013, when the first professional esports P-1 visa was granted to Canadian national Danny “Shiphtur” Le so that he could participate in that years League of Legends Championship Series. And while these applications are still evaluated on a case by case basis, the rise in esports popularity over the past decade or so has given credence to the cases of these highly talented professionals. To understand this growing trend, it is important to take a look at some of the statistics around this highly lucrative, global sport and what its professionals have to offer to the United States.

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The Incredible Turnout For Esports Events

While it may seem odd to fans of traditional sports, there is no denying the rising popularity of esports among young people around the world. The esports space is a new economic frontier that promises to be highly lucrative, and one that the U.S. would do well to invest in. Two of the most popular esports games, League of Legends and StarCraft II, hold highly publicized tournaments with international participation. These tournaments offer cash prizes up to a million dollars or more for teams that place. These tournaments bring in immense crowds comparable to traditional sports. The League of Legends Championship series in particular is so popular that it has been held in high capacity venues like Madison Square Garden and the Staples Center and was even broadcast on the massively popular sports network ESPN.


The Esports Industry’s Creation of Exciting New American Jobs

As the esports industry continues to expand at a rapid pace, new and exciting investment opportunities are opening up for people passionate about video games. The highly competitive space has increased the demand for additional support staff members for esports teams. These positions include but are not limited to jobs like coaches, team managers, and owners. The tournaments themselves also employ an extensive staff. Just like in traditional sports, esports use highly knowledgeable commentators to help viewers at home understand these fast-paced events. Esports journalism is another fruitful industry. Networks like “In Game Name” or IGN” employ a large staff, includer interviewers, writers, and experts that produce content related to professional esports and the gaming industry in general.


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Potential Benefits For Esports Employees?

As esports franchises grow, the financial opportunities for skilled participants have become more and more attractive. The recently formed Overwatch League, a professional league for Blizzard Entertainments multiplayer video game Overwatch, has been somewhat of a trailblazer in this respect. All players that participate within the league receive a base salary of $50,000, which is further augmented by any prize money that their team earns. These players also receive housing for the season as well as healthcare and retirement plans- all provided by Blizzard Entertainment.


The Diverse Skillsets Developed In Esports

Investing in the esports domain has many practical benefits as well. Esports professionals put thousands of hours into mastering their craft and as a result, they develop a unique set of skills which can be utilized beyond video games. These skills include a significantly heightened reaction time, strong hand eye coordination, the ability to solve complex problems, teamwork and leadership skills and so much more. For this reason, trades like the Formula One racing industry have begun looking to esports professionals to scout new talent. Esports professionals have the highly tuned senses and quick reaction time that normally takes drivers years of dangerous practice to develop. This makes excellent candidates for continued training. On a more practical level, esports professionals also make a good fit for jobs that require attentiveness and strong reaction times, like pilots and emergency vehicle operators.


The Struggle Continues For Some

Even with all these benefits considered, some esports professionals still face difficulties obtaining a P-1 visa. This is due to the fact that there is no universal standard for evaluating applications, and each applicant is reviewed on a case by case basis. Esports athletes must prove that they have achieved significant success in their chosen game, and that have a legal contract with a U.S. esports organization. While competitors in highly popular games like League of Legends have generally been successful in this area, other professionals have not been so lucky. A Swedish national named William Hjelte, who competes in the game Super Smash Brothers Melee, has his P-1 visa application denied in 2015. This case in particular was somewhat surprising, since the game in question is extremely popular internationally and has been a staple in the esports industry for years. And while Hjelte was able to obtain his P1 visa the following year, his case is a reminder that the legal battle for the legitimacy of esports professionals in the U.S. is still ongoing.


Conclusion

There is hope for those facing challenges to their P-1 visa applications. Shifting attitudes toward esports as well as recent policy developments have expanded opportunities for athletes seeking a P-1 visa. Visa pro-immigration attorneys know the ins and outs of P-1 visa programs, and our goal is to apply that knowledge to assist talented athletes obtain the legal rights to showcase their abilities in the United States.

Contact VisaPro Law Firm Today for a free P1 Visa consultation. We will listen to the details of your case and give you a personalized recommendation based on our substantial experience and nearly impeccable success rate.


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