eSports and collegiate athletic scholarships: An in-depth look

What is the “perfect job?”

For many gamers, it would be to simply play or talk about video games for a living (as many YouTubers are already doing). However, more competitively-inclined players would probably be happy being paid to play video games against other people – also known as “competitive gaming” or more commonly, “eSports.”

In the past, the caveat, for many of those in their late teens to mid-20’s, is that playing video games competitively for a living was nothing more than a dream. Now, much to the delight of many in the same age group, the prominence and popularity of eSports has increased exponentially on college campuses across the United States, including universities such as Harvard, Florida State, and Robert Morris in Illinois.

In fact, as of this year, over 10,000 college students currently play as part of the largest collegiate eSports league – Collegiate StarLeague – which is 4,400 more than 2013 and surprisingly, 4,600 more than the number of college males who participate in Division I collegiate basketball.

eSports collegiate scholarships

Back to what interests many of those considering trying out for a collegiate eSports team – money. A huge incentive for becoming a college eSports athlete is just that, money – in the form of collegiate scholarships. Claiming the title of victor in a decently sized eSports tournament can possibly earn players years of tuition money.

At the aforementioned Robert Morris University in Illinois, the school’s athletic department established an officially sanctioned eSports team set to go live this fall, and is offering the exact type of scholarships given to athletes who play more traditional sports – i.e. football, soccer, hockey, et cetera.

A huge draw for eSports is that it is largely a spectator sport, with popular game streaming services such as Twitch bolstering significant interest in the phenomenon. Not only is it beneficial for both players and universities, but it is also profitable for many game publishers/developers due to the potential publicity of collegiate communities.

Game companies such as Blizzard are in favor of more official recognition of collegiate eSports, due in part to the aforementioned reasons, as well as the company’s belief that a large portion of their customers are, in fact, college students.

However, not every college is privy to the idea of handing out tuition money and scholarships to eSports athletes. A large portion of college eSports groups are, more often than not, considered to be a club. But there are exceptions, with some colleges providing practice space for their eSports players. On the other side of the same coin, a handful of colleges are also regulating eSports much in the same way as they do traditional college athletics – establishing GPA requirements and time limits on practice sessions.

By the same token, many colleges are not quite sure what eSports actually is – presumably due to its quick rise in popularity. Some game companies say that it is too early in eSports’ life to accurately predict how involved the majority of colleges and universities will be in the future.

Christopher Wyatt, senior manager at Riot Games (of League of Legends fame), compared eSports’ current standing to the 1940’s basketball scene, stating the following on the matter:

“This is just how basketball was in the 1940’s. A lot of the structure and organization you see in more formal athletics, that groundwork is still being laid down here.”

While the foundation for collegiate eSports becoming a more accepted part of college is indeed being laid down, many colleges have concerns, especially regarding the effect of eSports’ time commitment on more formal academia (i.e. playing games vs. good grades). More importantly, formally recognizing eSports could possibly hinder the monopoly many companies and eSports teams have on college campuses – possible bringing about more strict regulations in the vein of traditional college athletics.

As for the potential for making a living as an eSports athlete (and being offered collegiate scholarships), read more details on the matter after the break.


 

Collegiate eSports – Scholarships, Money, and More

Collegiate eSports - Scholarships, money, and more

First off, a few examples in regards to the potential of receiving athletic eSports scholarships:

  • This past September, Blizzard awarded $5,000 in scholarship money to gamers participating in a Hearthstone tournament
  • In 2013, Azubu sponsored a Starcraft II competition that offered $40,000 in prize money to six students from Berkeley
  • Last spring, Riot Games hosted the first North American Collegiate Championship for League of Legends, offering $7,500 to each member of a University of Washington team

In short, a variety of game companies are offering considerable sums of scholarship money for collegiate eSports players. As such, an influx of college students are becoming much more invested in competitive gaming.

The motivation behind college students’ pursuit of collegiate eSports is easy to see – get paid to play games competitively. A very attractive proposition – especially with the rising costs of college tuition and room and board averaging around $40,000.

Similarly, albeit a bit more ambiguous, the incentives behind game companies’ interest in collegiate eSports is the potential to expand their reach to an influential generation of gamers – subsequently drawing in both profit and new customers.

There is a distinct possibility, in the future, that collegiate eSports could become a sort of “player pool,” from which professional eSports teams could draft promising recruits – similar to drafts seen in more traditional, professional sports.

In closing, back to collegiate eSports and college scholarships – many are probably wondering, “Why on earth should tuition money be awarded to someone who plays video games?” 

Mrs. Melcher, the wife of Kurt Melcher – who is the associate athletic director at the previously mentioned Robert Morris University, has the following to say in response:

“Why should it only be given to some kid who can put a ball into a hole?”


What are your thoughts on collegiate eSports? Do you think gamers be paid to play video games competitively while they’re in college, earning scholarship money on the way? Why or why not?

Also, what do you see in the future of eSports? Is it a bright one that will continue to endure or will it slowly fade away in the coming years? Why do you think so?

Let us know in the comment section below! As always, stay tuned to GamerHeadlines.com for the latest in video game and technology news.