Want a work visa in Japan? You’ll need to get better at video games

Cross that bridge.
Cross that bridge.
Image: League of Legends/Riot Games
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Plenty of people would like to live in Japan, but not everyone can snag a work visa. This week two South Koreans forged a new path for others to follow.

On Mar. 30 Japanese authorities granted Category 3 entertainment visas to Ki Hon Han and Sang Ho Yun, two professional South Korean video game players who excel at “League of Legends,” the multiplayer online battle arena from Riot Games.

Detonation Gaming, an e-sports team in Japan’s Chiba prefecture, drafted the players for their “League of Legends” prowess in January, but the two needed work visas to legally live in the country. In a first for Japan, the government granted the foreigners work visas based on their video game skills.

They received the kind of work visa normally granted to professional athletes joining Japanese sports teams. In this case, though, the visas were awarded for mental, not physical, agility.

The Japan eSports Federation, which was founded last April and promotes the competitive playing of video games, praised the authorities for the move, calling it an “historic event that officially recognizes professional e-sports players as being equal in status to competitors in other sports.” It added that more international mobility for players could help boost worldwide competitive standards.

More to the point for Japan, which lags behind many of its Asian neighbors in e-sports, importing talent promises to help narrow the skills gap.