From a critical perspective, questions about definitions aren’t especially interesting. There tends to be a lot of arguing about where the lines for one category should end and the other should start, and more time is spent defining terms than speaking on the object of inquiry. But ignoring those arguments is a kind of luxury: where practical matters are concerned, some valuable games may not be possible without the arts funding that many countries now provide under the assumption that games can qualify as art. Similarly, esports players who need visas to compete abroad should either be defined as athletes, or should have a separate definition that allows for similar visa status. The definitions become intensely important when considered from a legal perspective.
Definitions become intensely important when considered from a legal perspective
To that end, the French senate unanimously passed the Law for a Digital Republic last Wednesday. It’s a significant bill, intended to set forth all sorts of rules about how the internet and wireless services should work in France. If you’ve seen it in the news, it’s probably in this bill, from whether the internet is a human right to whether there’s a “right to be forgotten” (If you’re curious, the bill answers both of those with an elaborate “yes, sort of”). In addition to outlining the necessity for handicapped access to the internet, and the payment structures for SMS plans, the bill dedicates a section to esports, with one article to define “video game competitions” and another to lay out how esports players may be employed and paid.
According to Section 4, Article 101: “a video game competition is one that pits at least two players or teams of players against one another for a score or a victory by way of a video game.” This article serves mainly to separate esports from “the taking of bets” by explicit definition and by its limits on the registration fees competition organizers can charge. It allows for the participation of minors as long as they have a legal representative. Article 102 focuses on contracts and salaries paid to esports players, whom it defines as follows: “the professional player of competitive video games is any person remunerated for participation in video game competitions who is subordinate to an organization or a company benefitting from the approval of the minister in charge of [digital affairs] as specified by regulations.” It defines contracts as lasting at least one season and up to five years at the longest, and includes the details that should be included in any such agreement. On top of that, it lays out a fine of 3,750 Euros for not complying once, and a fine of 7,500 Euros and six months of prison time for a second infraction.
Only a handful of well-known esports players come from France.
Only a handful of well-known esports players come from France. The most well-known are probably the members of CS:GO teams G2 and Team EnVyUs, although in League of Legends there’s also the former TSM player Bora “YellOwStaR” Kim, and in Dota 2, OG’s support player 7ckingmad is French as well. This legislation is designed, more than anything else, for the protection of players, and it’s entirely possible that now that it’s passed, we’ll see more French esports players at a higher level.
At the Overwatch Open on Friday, French player Terrence “SoOn” Tarlier led his team, Misfits to an impressive 3 to 1 victory against Team EnVyUs, the current team-to-beat in Overwatch and unquestionable favorites for that tournament. Half of Misfits and their coach are from France, and the $100,000 prize they took home already puts them well on their way to being some of the highest-paid French esports players of all time.
For reference, the version of the Law for a Digital Republic that was adopted by the French Senate on Wednesday can be found here, and a large selection of relevant material can be found here.