Nintendonitis: Work Comp Coverage for Professional Gamers

The professional video game playing industry, or eSports, brought in $493 million in 2015 and is expected to generate $1 billion in revenue by 2019.  In a recent tournament, a five-member team from China won a purse valued at more than $9 million.  Despite the tremendous revenues it brings in, the eSports industry remains in its infancy, and it is therefore difficult to determine what health concerns may arise out of it, and who would be responsible for paying for these health problems.  To date, the industry is already witnessing in the players mental health issues, substance abuse issues, attention enhancing supplement issues, and Nintendonitis, a repetitive motion injury associated with video game playing.  There are also concerns about the impact of professional gaming on brain development in young players.

In January of this year, the Professional eSports Association was established with team owners to run the league and a commissioner to oversee it.  It focused on establishing rules regarding how players are treated and how players are selected.  The league promises to focus on players’ rights and benefits, including health insurance, workers’ compensation, financial planning and profit sharing.  This is considered a step in the right direction.  Protections are necessary to prevent abuses to players who are mostly young and inexperienced with employment.  It will be interesting to watch how this industry continues to unfold in the coming years and how it interacts with workers’ compensation laws.