Video games were once associated with couch potatoes, but today there is growing legitimacy, especially around what is known as “eSports.” This type of professional competitive gaming is gaining popularity in the U.S., and eSports is breaking into the mainstream world — emerging technology companies, standard athletic programs, and even higher education institutions are jumping on the virtual band wagon.
According to Forbes, the U.S. started recognizing eSports players as professional athletes in July 2013. Last summer, ESPN.com began broadcasting an eSports championship, and Red Bull now sponsors a “Battle Grounds” eSports tournament.
Some colleges are now recognizing eSports as an alternative to playing traditional sports such as basketball or football. According to a report by ESPN, in 2014 Robert Morris University Illinois became the first school in North America to grant varsity status to video gamers and to offer gaming scholarships. In October 2014, a 35-member team from the school played the massive multiplayer fantasy game League of Legends against other collegiate teams. In all, 22 schools from two different regions registered for the National League of Legends Collegiate Series Fall Season and a chance at a $5,000 prize pool.
Even Harvard University is jumping on board. Harvard has established an eSports Association to connect a series of disparate Harvard gaming communities. Its mission is to promote the social aspects of gaming, enter high-level eSport competitions, and de-stigmatize the video-game world at college.
Berklee College of Music also has an eSports Club (BeSPC) that supports the competitive video game organization on campus, aims to strengthen the collegiate/general gaming community, and create a general amount of interests related to eSports, competitive gaming for public, within and outside of the school.
Providing further evidence that eSports is a legitimate and lasting industry is the creation of the National Collegiate e-Sports Association. The organization is dedicated to establishing official eSport programs so that student gamers can excel both on the battlefield and in the classroom. There is also the Collegiate Star League, an organization made up of teams from 103 colleges and universities in the U.S. and Canada.
Still not convinced that eSports is real? Consider that the top professional video gamers in the world can earn hundreds of thousands of dollars, thanks to lucrative sponsorship deals and cash prizes. It doesn’t get much more real than that.
Don’t worry, if you can’t make the cut as a professional gamer, there are plenty of job opportunities for young adults related to the eSports scene. Many have found full-time jobs in the industry after graduating, with the video game industry employing more than 120,000 people.
Just think — the next athlete to grace a box of Wheaties may very well be an e-athlete!