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Tuesday, July 31, 2018

A General Comparison of National e-sports Policies

Gary Chen

     As physical and social environments continue to change, popular sports and recreational preferences have reached a point of transition, as the increasing degree of immersion in video gaming allowed by technological advancement has paved the way for a gradual shift in public perception of
video games. Moreover, innovations in communications technologies have forced the individuals and organizations involved in the gaming industry to formulate new legal definitions of gaming and prepare for new challenges.
       

 On November 7, 2017, the Legislative Yuan passed a bill to amend part of the Sports Industry Development Act, formally recognizing e-sports as part of the sports industry and, in turn, requiring public organizations at various levels to allocate funds to e-sports under relevant policies and development projects. The bill also made Chinese Taipei a world-leader in recognizing e-sports competitions as formal sporting events. For the sake of evaluating the progress of other economies in recognizing and developing e-sports, this essay briefly introduces the current state of e-sports across various economies.

     Besides Chinese Taipei, China is the only other economy that has passed laws and regulations recognizing e-sports competitions as formal sporting events. In 2003, the General Administration of Sport of China formally listed e-sports as one of the economy's official categories of sports at the ceremony marking the launch of the Chinese Digital Sports Exchange Platform. In contrast, views on e-sports differ in economies such as Korea, Malaysia, Italy and the United States because of different development conditions.

     E-sports has become a primary industry in Korea, which is an acknowledged world leader in e-sports development. Since the launch of the World Cyber Games in 1997, e-sports has ranked among the top three sporting events in the country, along with soccer and go. To promote e-sports, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism of Korea ratified the Act on Promotion of E-Sports, charging the Game Industry Section of the Cultural Industry Department with managing and promoting e-sports. In contrast to the economy's Act of Promotion of Sports, which aims to promote conventional athletic sports, the Act on Promotion of E-Sports regulates government funding for e-sports and policies establishing departments at universities and other institutions to develop professional athletes. Regarding academic advancement, Chung-Ang University is the only institution to include e-sports performance as an assessment criterion in its admission review process. But as for Korea's national conscription system, medal winners in major e-sports events are still required to serve, unlike medalists in conventional sporting events, who may be eligible for exemption from
conscription.

     The United States government has yet to put forth a clear, independent definition of e-sports, which is still categorized as a part of the technology and gaming industries rather than the sports industry. However, e-sports players competing in the United States may apply for a P1 visa, which
is applicable to professional entertainers or athletes taking part in shortterm events held in the United States. In the academic sector, the National Association of Collegiate E-sports serves as the management association for college-level e-sports activities in the United States. Currently, 56
universities in the United States offer courses or subjects related to e-sports, and over 30 universities offer scholarships for e-sports athletes. It is especially worth mentioning that Stephens College in Missouri is the first school to offer scholarships specifically for female e-sports athletes.

     In Malaysia, eSports Malaysia (eSM), which is responsible for holding various competitive events, was registered with the Sports Commissioner's Office of the Ministry of Youth and Sports in January 2015. However, Malaysia has not yet adapted its training and subsidization schemes for
traditional athletes to competitors in e-sports.

     Italy's e-sports industry is currently promoted by the Italian Sports Federation and supervised by the Italian National Olympic Committee, though Italy does not at present provide academic advancement counseling services to e-sports athletes. As conscription in Italy became voluntary in
2005, e-sports athletes do not face military service obligations. Notably, the technology company MSI sponsors e-sports competitors and competitions in Italy and provides related technical support.

     As an increasingly popular activity, e-sports has been listed as a demonstration sport in the upcoming 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia, and will make up a formal event in the 2022 Asian Games held in Hangzhou, China. There is also rising demand for e-sports to be listed as an Olympic event at Paris 2024. Thanks to policy support and overall government planning, we anticipate that elite e-sports athletes should have greater opportunities to perform at international events in the years to come.

(Gary Chen is an Assistant Research Fellow at the Taiwan Institute of Economic Research)

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