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8-Year-Old's Esports Contract Is Turning Heads

When you were eight years old, you might have dreamed of a career that involved getting paid to play video games. While sites like Twitch and YouTube have made those aspirations possible, the dream has evolved thanks to esports teams. Instead of just making a plain old career out of video games, talented gamers can transform into celebrities and receive everything that comes with stardom. That includes legions of cheering fans, merchandise with their faces on it ... and the occasional questionable contract.

Team 33, a relative newcomer to the esports scene, just signed on Joseph Deen — who will go by his nom du game of 33 Gosu — as part of their exclusive player roster. If you've never heard of Deen before, that's because he's eight years old, which is younger than many of the current teenage esports players. The kid isn't even old enough to learn basic geometry and algebra, but he's already building wooden towers and floss dancing like a pro, and the internet is up in arms over a single question: Is this legal?

Even though Deen received a $33,000 signing bonus and a free gaming setup estimated at over $5000, audiences can't agree on how to react to the news. Many wish him the best; a few don't quite understand it, and some are curious about the contract and whether it flaunts child labor laws. Kotaku, curious about the latter issue, contacted Team 33 founder Tyler Gallagher, who claimed the contract is legally permissible because of one crucial detail: Gaming isn't work (according to him, anyway).

Even though Deen is now a member of an esports team, he won't participate in tournaments, and the contract lets him skip weekend practice sessions. And, Deen's mother can cancel the contract if gaming gets in the way of his schoolwork. The agreement is, as Gallagher described it, a "reverse contract." It is designed to help Team 33 mentor Deen and is essentially an investment to mold him into a future pro esports gamer, rather than an actual contract. All Team 33 asks in return is a cut of his YouTube and merchandise profits, as well as first dibs on signing him when he turns 13.

While Gallagher insisted that all things gaming aren't work, others starkly disagree. Kotaku also contacted esports attorney Ryan Fairchild, and their response was decidedly different. According to Fairchild, if a Commissioner of Labor or a Secretary of Labor were to examine Deen's contract and obligations, they would find a ton of red flags. To add to the legal conundrum, Gallagher claimed that Team 33 has been testing Deen since he was six to see if he was esports material.

This contract might end up being a case for the courts, since nobody can seem to find any common ground.