Seven foot tall basketball players are easy to recognize on a college campus. However, some students across America are earning the same athletic scholarships for quick mouse clicking instead.
Schools from Harvard to the University of Washington have created official video game teams that compete in a national league with more than 10,000 players.
Robert Morris University in Chicago, has begun to give out the same scholarships that are awarded to basketball and hockey players, to students whose sport takes place on a computer.
This has allowed many casual and serious gamers who play League of Legends, Defense of the Ancients (DOTA) 2, and Hearthstone to consider the new possibility of going to school to play videogames.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association doesn’t yet recognize e-gaming as one of their sanctioned sports, so colleges can recruit gamers who have already been considered pro. Many online tournaments for these games consist of thousands of players from across the world, and can hand out lush cash prizes. The DOTA 2 world championships were held last July in Seattle, with the first place team taking over $5 million dollars home.
DOTA 2 and League of Legends are strategy-based games that involve defeating an enemy team’s base. Over 67 million people play League of Legends every month.
“[Scholarships] will definitely improve the standing [of video games] within the eyes of the public,” said Ethan Ling, a freshman who considers himself a serious gamer. “Especially how big and how influential this sort of gaming is.”
Ling was also aware of the talents necessary to earn a scholarship for gaming.
“These people [getting scholarships] are in challenger (the highest division in the game). Recently a player who went to Robert Morris is playing professional now,” Ling said.
Many professional players, who either stream their gameplay on websites like Twitch.tv or play in tournaments, can earn decent livings just from gaming.
“[Streamers on Twitch] earn enough to basically support themselves and support their families,” Ling said. “Even in the sense that they aren’t necessarily professionals, they can still earn enough.”
Robert Morris and the University of Pikeville in Kentucky are the only institutions offering scholarships, but many schools could still follow suit. The rise of e-gaming can give credibility to a talented gamer, whose skills otherwise wouldn’t be recognized by their university.
Bruce Parsons, the media director at Pikeville, said in an interview with USA Today that he hopes that creating a League of Legends team will be a boost to the admissions department.
“There are going to be a lot of students, both nationwide and international, who are going to look at our university who wouldn’t have before,” Parsons said.
Students at Robert Morris and Pikeville will be dealt similar schedules and requirements as the other athletes at their school. They will have to maintain a certain GPA, and will have practice times scheduled throughout the week to focus on their competition.
An official team with scholarships isn’t likely anytime soon at Seattle University, but if more schools do decide to offer them, a Redhawk gaming squad isn’t out of the realm of imagination.
Chaucer may be reached at [email protected]