Major League Gaming is celebrating a new hire today. But the acquisition is about more than just the addition of a popular personality to one of North America’s premier esports organizations. It marks another official leap forward for esports.
Under his new contract, Bowe will contribute to MLG’s esports news show, The eSports Report, and host his own series and gameplay sessions. When not in studio, Bowe will join MLG broadcasters Chris Puckett and Ryan “Fwiz” Wyatt for official MLG events and sponsored broadcasts.
What’s far more remarkable here, however, is the nature of his employment. Bowe, a citizen of the United Kingdom, has been granted an O-1 visa by US Citizenship and Immigration Services. The development comes just one year after Riot Games successfully petitioned the USCIS to grant esports competitors P-1 visas, officially recognizing them as athletes.
According to the USCIS, the O-1 visa is awarded specifically to individuals who “(have) risen to the very top of (their) field of endeavor” and “who have demonstrated an “extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, or athletics.” Evidence presented in the O-1 visa application must demonstrate, “employment in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation.”
These visas aren’t awarded lightly. The application requires submission of a written opinion from a peer group or labor organization. In the absence of such an organization, the decision is based on evidence of record. In this case, that evidence would most likely include past broadcasts demonstrating the presentation of major esports events at an exemplary level.
The decision to award Bowe a visa for his contributions to “athletics” will surely stoke the fires of a semantic battle that received fresh ammunition just days ago, when ESPN’s John Skipper stated publicly that esports is “not a sport.” However, while opinion-makers on both sides of the argument quarrel over the meaning of the word, one thing is now official: In the eyes of the USCIS, the two are one and the same.