Is A Professional Gamer Really A Pro "Athlete?"
The US government now recognizes League of Legends players as professional athletes. They'll even award visas for gamers to come to this country to play, believe it or not.
Riot Games eSports manager told GameSpot that this is a "groundbreaking decision." Well, I suppose it is.
But I mean, really, can we call professional gamers "athletes?" Webster's defines "athlete" as "a person who is trained or skilled in exercises, sports, or games requiring physical strength, agility, or stamina." By that definition, I fail to see how pressing buttons accurately can qualify you as an athlete. There's no doubt that pro gaming features competition; that's not in question. I also wouldn't claim that pro gaming doesn't require a large amount of talent, because it does. It requires great hand-eye coordination and lots of practice.
In that way, I would definitely say pro gamers are competitors. But athletes? Really? Many will make the argument by saying, "Well, if billiards players or darts players are considered athletes, than so are pro gamers." And that'd be a true statement...if I agreed that pro pool players or pro bowlers are actually athletes, and I don't. The games in question demand a ridiculous amount of precision and a huge amount of diligence and talent. I must repeat that. But you aren't required to excel in the realm of physical strength, agility or stamina, as per Webster's definition.
Here's my bottom line- If you can be one of the best in the world at anything, and you can do so with a gut and an extra chin, you are not an athlete. You're just amazingly good at a competitive game, which I also hesitate to call a sport. If you can't run a mile in under twelve freakin' minutes and you're a world champion of anything where you're called an "athlete," I say something's wrong. So sue me.
7/12/2013 Ben Dutka