Treating competitive video gaming as sports: potential legal pros and cons?

Sixfortyfive

He who pursues two rabbits gets two rabbits.
#1
Brief background: Riot Games recently managed to secure athlete visas for professional League of Legend players, marking the first time that the US government has acknowledged competitive video games as sports. That raises the question of what other potential regulatory benefits and pitfalls might come from classifying gaming as sports in a very broad sense.

Ultradavid, an attorney who specializes in law relating to entertainment and video games, just wrote a piece exploring that very question and how it could impact things in a handful of ways (Title IX, student athletes, coaching, unemployment, media, agents). He lists a few examples in an imaginary future in which such consequences are fully realized, then goes on to note how and why other athletic orginazations have skirted around specifically classifying themselves as "sports." If you have an interest in competitive gaming, the full article is an interesting read.

The sportsification of video gaming terminology may seem like a simple rhetorical issue, but to the law words can be everything. The terms we use amongst ourselves and in bringing our issues to the government could have a strong impact on what the ultimate legal regime governing competitive gaming looks like. The State Department endorsed the idea that video game players are athletes not just because Riot identified an easier legal route to obtaining visas for its players but because Riot’s representatives speak about video gaming usings esports-style terms.
Right now video games aren’t considered athletics under Title IX, so there are no requirements that video game clubs factor into this balance between men’s and women’s athletic programs. Overwhelmingly male clubs like the Fighting Gamers at the University of California Irvine and the University of California Berkeley’s collegiate Starcraft team don’t factor into Title IX considerations because they aren’t athletics.

But what if video games were esports and the government thought esports were athletic sports? Well, then the Fighting Gamers at UCI and the Cal collegiate Starcraft team would factor into Title IX calculations. Because they’re overwhelmingly male, they would add significantly to an athletic sex imbalance that would have to be addressed in some way. Maybe the schools would raise tuition or fees to pay to bring on new women’s teams? Maybe other men’s athletic programs would get cut? Or maybe the ones to be cut would be the Fighting Gamers at UCI and Cal Starcraft?
"Esports work in 20X6 can be grueling, and although the very best players live comfortably and enjoy long careers, others sometimes struggle. Jimmy Chen Jr. never quite managed to live up to his father’s fighting game prowess, but nevertheless carved out a steady semi-professional career. Unable to survive solely on his esports income, he grew accustomed to working elsewhere during the Road to Evo Circuit’s offseason. With the recession of 20X5, though, he could no longer find work. With six months until the next Evo season, he filed for unemployment benefits. His application was rejected."
Back in the 1980s, the public still wasn’t sure whether pro wrestling was a real sport or whether it was just "sports entertainment." When called to testify in front of the New Jersey State Senate, pro wrestling spokesmen surprised some people by claiming that their business wasn’t in sports but entertainment. They’d realized that if they could avoid classification as sports, they could avoid licensure requirements for wrestlers, referees, and promoters; physical exams for wrestlers, doctors near the ring, and insurance requirements; taxes on television rights; and more. Pro wrestling disclaimed sports terminology because it wanted to avoid the regulation that comes with being a sport. It worked.
But pro wrestling and theatrical ice skaters can still teach us a couple important lessons. One is that we should think about potential regulations in advance and openly discuss whether we think they’d make sense. The other is that if we’re willing to lobby in the right ways, it’s possible to convince the government that it should help us out without having to call ourselves athletes. That way, we can procure benefits without risking the unexpected regulations that can come with being sports.
Is the rhetoric of esports worth the potential regulatory picture of 20X6? That’s something we need discuss, because it doesn’t just affect players or teams or leagues. It affects everyone with an interest in competitive video gaming.
What do you think? Personally, I find the idea of drug testing in "e-sports" to be particularly amusing... It'd probably help thin the field for me in a few circles I hang in, heh.
 

Hazaro

relies on auto-aim
#7
Gave it a read earlier. It's good.
Good luck trying to stop adderall though.

I wonder how being an athlete affects your benefits and such. I imagine it would make the life of semi-pro's a pain.
It's included in there, some state's don't give certain benefits to athletes.
 
#13
Playing video games is not athletics. They should find a new word for it.
But what about DDR?

I don't think the word matters too much, but the implications certainly do. It only gets more complicated when you start holding things internationally as well.

Good read as usual from UD.
 
#15
How can videogames ever be considered a sport, invididual esports games come and go in a span of 5 -10 years.

Imagine if hockey would only be around for a decade at best.

What games would be considered a sport? All of them? What are the requirements to be recognised as a pro athlete would it have to be specific games or could you sign up as professional cut the rope or call of duty player.
 
#23
How can videogames ever be considered a sport, invididual esports games come and go in a span of 5 -10 years.

Imagine if hockey would only be around for a decade at best.

What games would be considered a sport? All of them? What are the requirements to be recognised as a pro athlete would it have to be specific games or could you sign up as professional cut the rope or call of duty player.
some video games are extremely sophisticated and can last for a very long time if adopted legally and professionally. A game like Tekken Tag tournament 2 could probably be played effectively for 10-15 years ,but there aren't enough dedicated players around for that to happen. The game is insanely well designed and balanced and is fit for a true sport imo...The fact that its treated only like a "game" hurts it..I don't feel its designed with that in mind.

EDIT : Its usually not the game's fault when it cycles out quickly. Players lose interest and move on to something new just like they do with any other game. There isn't an incentive to stick that long with any game.If it comes regulated by some official body, games can last really long.
 
#24
Would smoking weed count as a disqualification ? That's all I would do as an esports pro
No, from what I know, drug use isn't really a big deal (?) in the scene.

But gaming is about as much sport as Chess is. It requires mental skill and quick reflexes in the case of most competitively played games..but it is not a "sport" in the widely used sense. "Competitive gaming" sounds better than "e-sports."

I guess unless it's DDR or Para Para Paradise or something?
 
#25
some video games are extremely sophisticated and can last for a very long time if adopted legally and professionally. A game like Tekken Tag tournament 2 could probably be played effectively for 10-15 years ,but there aren't enough dedicated players around for that to happen. The game is insanely well designed and balanced and is fit for a true sport imo...The fact that its treated only like a "game" hurts it..I don't feel its designed with that in mind.

EDIT : Its usually not the game's fault when it cycles out quickly. Players lose interest and move on to something new just like they do with any other game. There isn't an incentive to stick that long with any game.If it comes regulated by some official body, games can last really long.
No I understand that the games are sophisticated enough, it's just that people throw their old toy out of the pram when you give them a new one.
Quake 3 has enough variety, gameplay etc (and endless amounts of maps thanks to mod tools) to host a thousand years of competitive play, but it's no longer popular so quake 3 sponsored tournaments is dead and most people in the scene moved on a long time ago.

I just don't see the point of turning a game into a sport if it won't be around long enough for anyone to remember it.

I'm also not sure why games have to become sports, do we really want tons of people to make a career out of it? (people can do that now anyhow, if they have the proper talent)
All it would do is like every other major sport : corrupt it to the core.

Can't imagine the equivalent of a schwalbe in starcraft or dota, and I'd rather not find out.
Don't fix what isn't broken imo.
 
#26
But gaming is about as much sport as Chess is. It requires mental skill and quick reflexes in the case of most competitively played games..but it is not a "sport" in the widely used sense. "Competitive gaming" sounds better than "e-sports."
Writing 'competitive gaming' every time is too much of a hassle. There needs to be a more accessible word.

E-SPORTS.

One game yeah, the exception to the rule.
All the others have cycled out within < 10 years.
Counter-Strike and Quake 3 too. In my opinion there's no reason why that should be an issue anyway. Even if SC, CS and Quake are all dying as esports these days, at least CS and SC are being replaced by CS:GO and SC2. While they are not the exact same, fans move on to the next thing. Many real sports have all undergone massive changes over the decades and centuries too, though it's obviously not the exact same thing, I still feel it's comparable. If esports is going to be seen as a legitimate sport of sorts (in the eyes of the law anyway), then it doesn't have to be about the individual games themselves. You can have leagues like MLG, DH, ESL, WCS, etc. Biggest problem I have with this is that it is likely the developers/publishers (like in this case) that will end up in control, and I am not a fan of that at all.

I'm also not sure why games have to become sports, do we really want tons of people to make a career out of it? (people can do that now anyhow, if they have the proper talent)
All it would do is like every other major sport : corrupt it to the core.

Can't imagine the equivalent of a schwalbe in starcraft or dota, and I'd rather not find out.
Don't fix what isn't broken imo.
I can agree with this. As I said above, control will probably end up in the hands of developers/publishers, and I don't like the idea of that. Aside from that, I don't mind though.
 
#27
I like David's reluctance to be classified as a sport for the time being. Opening yourself up to regulation by an outside entity doesn't sound like the wisest choice for a growing industry.
 
#29
Would smoking weed count as a disqualification ? That's all I would do as an esports pro
I doubt your hypothetical sponsors along with the sponsors of whatever league you're comoeting in would appreciate that, so yes you would probably be punished by both the imaginary league and the loss of some or all of your sponsors.
 
#30
I like David's reluctance to be classified as a sport for the time being. Opening yourself up to regulation by an outside entity doesn't sound like the wisest choice for a growing industry.
No but I can see a time when fighting games are dragged into it kicking and screaming because another game like a MOBA forced the issue.

This could be a big problem if not ready... Which there is little chance of.