Competitive video gaming is already the next professional sport

Will Nevin, News editor

America’s next popular sport is already here, they just don’t know it yet.

Most Americans are not aware of how popular competitive video gaming is today, and usually do not perceive it as being a professional sport.

Its popularity proves they could not be further from the truth.

U.S Customs and Immigration Services classifies international professional video gamers as “professional athletes” who can apply for special P1 visas allowing them to “live in America for five years and perform for payment or prize money,” with extensions available. It’s the same visa foreign-born baseball, football and basketball players receive.

In 2013, the U.S government granted the first P1 visa to Danny “Shiphtur” Le, who represented Canada in the League Championship Series of a League of Legends tournament.

DotA 2 and League of Legends are video games within the Multiplayer Online Battle Arena genre, where the objective is to strategically destroy an enemy team’s base.

Teams choose five “heroes,” which have unique abilities such as healing teammates, inflicting damage, teleportation or hindering enemies from using their abilities.

Professional teams often come from diverse backgrounds and have sponsors and owners.

Teams often live, study and practice together for months or years to master strategy, coordination and reflex control, before entering tournaments like The International for Dota 2, which reaches upwards of $20 million in prize money.

Games like League of Legends and DotA 2 often draw more viewers in their championship rounds than those of established leagues like the NBA and MLB.

According to Riot Games (the developers of League of Legends), “27 million people around the world viewed the last game of the 2013 championship tournament in Seoul, Korea.”

Game 7 of the 2014 World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Kansas City Royals was viewed by 23.5 million people globally. That year’s NBA Finals drew 18 million people.

By 2017, competitive video gaming claimed its crown as the fastest growing sport in the world.

People might struggle to compare glass wearing competitive video gamers to traditional strong physical athletes, but the industry has already established itself on that tier.