Intercollegiate eSports on the rise

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Gaming. The word most commonly associated with entertainment and reclusiveness is starting to take on a different connotation. In recent years the gaming industry has experienced significant growth to the point of being worth an estimated $91.5 billion in 2018, rivaling the music and movie industries.

Sam Raines, a former student at The University of Akron, participant in AU’s eSports program, and avid gamer, carries with him expertise that has been acquired after years of playing video games.

Raines noted, “Video games [have] always been in the competitive spirit, whether it was trying to beat high scores on an arcade game or winning against your friends. It was only a matter of time before people decided to start taking it to the next level.”

This rise in popularity has led to many institutions and businesses to take notice of eSports, with the newest participants being universities that sponsor intercollegiate varsity teams and recreational clubs. Colleges such as Arizona State University, University of California Berkley, and local universities such as The University of Akron and The University of Mount Union initiated eSports programs which offer various benefits to students.

For example, the University of Akron offers five varsity clubs in their  program, depending on the game played. These include: League of Legends, Overwatch, Counter Strike: Global Offensive, Hearthstone, and Rocket League. Team members can qualify for scholarships and managers are paid.

Christian Le, a current WJ senior, is an avid League of Legends player, a game that is currently available at many universities across the country. He is deeply invested in the eSports scene, with his favorite professional team being the Cleveland Cavaliers-owned 100 Thieves. He hopes to play at a higher level in college.

(University of Akron eSports)
Although in it’s early stages, the University of Akron hosts an eSports program which is attractive to students.

“Many eSports programs, especially at colleges and universities, provide scholarships to those good enough to play for their teams. eSports programs also provide a way for students who play video games, to meet new people and connect with each other. eSports programs bring all of these to the table as well as revenue from [Twitch] streams that the program might have,” Le explained.

Junior Dom Mazzulo hopes to bring eSports to Walsh Jesuit soon.“I see myself getting involved. I plan to climb the ranks of League of Legends at my future college,” said Dom.

The University of Akron does provide facilities and equipment for the use of their athletes, but equipment such as monitors, headphones, and gaming chairs are costly.

There are still questions, however, regarding how these programs would be perceived by students who are not at all interested in video games.

Sam Raines continued, “While there are many opportunities that arise from collegiate eSports, there are very few that can lead to a career from them. The most common way is through online streaming, which is quite lucrative. The other more popular way is being picked up by a professional team. These teams work a lot like traditional sports teams.”

Many have begun to question if eSports can truly label themselves as actual sports due to the limited amount of movement that is associated with the activity.“Video gaming in general does require skill and strategy, but I would argue they aren’t sports because hitting buttons on a controller just isn’t strenuous. That would also include so-called sports like darts, pool or chess,” senior Colin Norton stated.

However, people remain hopeful for the future of eSports, not only in the general sense but also in their inclusion among traditional collegiate sports.

“I see eSports as one of the fastest growing things out there. Esports have gone from having little tournaments in small venues to being played in massive stadium with millions watching live and even more watching online. Countries like South Korea and China have fully embraced the idea of eSports, and in China entire cities have been built for the specific use of eSports. [They] are growing faster than people expected, and many investors are interested in eSports and finding teams or even creating them,” stated Christian Le.

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