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Usually when the words “petition” and “gaming” are used together in the same sentence, a lot of the outside world assumes it's over something silly or inconsequential. However, the latest petition couldn't be more significant to the actual growth of gaming's fastest growing market: eSports.
The Daily Dot is reporting that a White House petition with 113,000 signatures has reached its goal, and the White House has 60 days to respond to the petition since that's usually what happens when petitions on the government website reach over 100,000 signatures.
So what is the petition about and what kind of response are they hoping for from the White House? It involves eSports competitors receiving visas to travel to the United States for events and competitions.
According to the petition, a Swedish Super Smash Bros. Melee player named William “Leffen” Hjelte was unable to compete because he was deported after receiving a temporary tourist visa. The petition explains Hjelte's plight...
Mr. Hjelte was deported from the United States because he was sponsored by an American company while using a tourist visa, when he needed a work visa. After applying for a P1 Visa, which is what professional athletes use to come to the US, he was denied due to Super Smash Bros. Melee not being recognized as a "legitimate" sport. Competitors in other eSports, such as League of Legends, have been approved for P1 Visas in order to travel to the US and compete. Given the precedent set with League of Legends, other eSports should be considered "legitimate" sports in order to let players come and compete in the United States.
The purpose of the petition is to get the United States Government to recognize eSports as a legitimate sport so that international participants sponsored by American companies can receive P-1A visas as recognized athletes.
According to the Daily Dot, Hjelte was originally denied a P-1A visa because eSports competitors were not seen as legitimate athletes by the immigration department, even though athletes in fields are able to receive these visas to travel to the United States for competitive purposes. However, these P-1A visas are only handed out on a case by case scenario, and not everyone is given a visa.
The article notes that eSports competitors are oftentimes denied the P-1A visa because eSports does not meet the standards to be considered as a legitimate sport, despite the millions of dollars it racks in and the millions of people who tune in to watch the events unfold.
Hjelte may have been deported and faced hardships just trying to travel abroad to compete in Super Smash Bros. tournaments, but things eventually worked out for him in early May of this year when he was able to receive a temporary visa.
The petition wants the White House to acknowledge eSports and at least address a possible solution for eSports players given how big the market has grown and the fact that many professional gamers make their living playing video games and winning tournaments. Cash prizes for these events can scale up into the double digit millions, as evidenced with the Dota 2 championships and the League of Legends.
The White House has sometime until the end of July to address the petition since it managed to reach over 100,000 signatures. Depending on what they say it could determine what the future of eSports look like when it comes to international competitors traveling to the United States.