Before you ask, yes, really. What would have been a pipe dream a decade ago is now becoming a reality. Colleges are actually beginning to assemble their own professional eSports teams! Similar to college football or chess or any other "legitimate" collegiate sport, students are getting scholarships to participate on college's competitive gaming teams.
How Would eSports Work In Colleges
It's exactly what it sounds like. Instead of being accepted to University of Florida via a football scholarship for you to play on the Florida Gators, gamers are now getting the same attention. With the rise of eSports, it's not very surprising that major institutions are getting in on the action.
It basically works the same way. Players may be picked up by scouts the same way a football or baseball player might be. They would train and compete on a team with other colleges and universities' teams in a lot of the already popular MOBA and RTS games currently on the ESports circuit. These student's are no different than more "traditional" athletes on campus, they dedicate a huge chunk of their time to practice and training in addition to their studies.
How Legitimate Is This?
In short, very. eSports has been steadily rising out of obscurity and the contentious resentment around it as a spectator sport is falling away FAST. eSports has grown into a massive, multi-billion dollar industry adopting models very similar to other professional sports. Another testament to the legitimacy of Collegiate eSports is the existence of the National Association of Collegiate eSports.
On their website, they have this to say about the industries growth:
"Since its establishment in the early 2000’s, professional and club eSports has seen rapid growth in both participation and viewership. According to ESPN The Magazine’s June 22, 2015 eSports issue, the 2014 League of Legends championship drew an online viewership of 27 million people, which is more than the NBA Finals (15.5 million), Major League Baseball’s World Series (13.8 million) and the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup Finals (5 million). DOTA 2 – another popular eSport – drew 20 million that same year according to the article."
With viewership surpassing some of the most popular major league spectator sports in the nation, it's only logical that the future of competitive gaming is firmly written. It doesn't take Nostradamus-esq levels of prognostication to foresee that competitive gaming is only going to grow from here.
How Does One Get Involved In Collegiate eSports?
The previously mentioned NACE has a whole section on their website dedicated to this. We highly suggest that if you're a perspective student/competitor to give it a quick visit. It provides a form that aspiring pro-gamers can fill out to get more information on the process of being accepted. The NACE also provides information for educational institutions on how to get involved in the wide world of competitive gaming.
Lastly, also on the NACE's website, one can find information on events, invitationals and more regarding college eSports. This is a major sign for the gaming industry and pro gamers that competitve gaming is here to stay. It lends it any remaining legitimacy it might have lacked and clears out any remaining doubt on the concept of video games as a pro-sport.
For more on eSports, out our section dedicated solely to the subject
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