Your parents said playing video games was a waste of time. Now, colleges will pay you for it.
This fall, Virginia's Randolph-Macon College joins 60 other schools in offering competitive grants and scholarships to students in a new field of athletics -- competitive video games. Randolph-Macon is ramping up its new eSports program, offering athletic grants to skilled video gamers who agree to compete in collegiate-level gaming on behalf of the school. Randolph-Macon's program adds video gaming to the school's existing athletic roster of competitive sports.
“It’s safe to say this is one of the fastest-growing phenomena in college athletics,” said Randolph-Macon Assistant Dean of Students James McGhee.
Randolph-Macon's program is targeting players of League of Legends, Overwatch, and Hearthstone, with a Fortnite team coming in the fall of 2019.
Much like traditional athletic scholarships, students earn grants to compete for the school in collegiate-level gaming tournaments. eSports tournaments focus on highly competitive gaming in controlled environments, with team journeys, team names, and member athletes adhering to rigorous training schedules prior to competitions, much like other sports.
The NACE (National Association of College eSports -- the eSports equivalent of the NCAA) currently has 42 other participating colleges in the nation.
Randolph-Macon's eSports team currently has 11 competitive gamers on its roster and is seeking to recruit more eSports athletes for the department via monitoring standout players on game streaming sites.
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The NACE offers member schools a private Discord server for use by athletes, trainers, and coaches when preparing for competition. The program includes more than 1,500 student athletes, $9 million in eSports scholarships and financial aid, and a national collegiate-level competition. As video gaming and eSports continue to gain credibility as skilled disciplines of the digital age garnering recognition and popular interest, United States schools join the likes of nations like South Korea, Brussels, and France, that recognize Major League Gaming competitions as a reputable sport of our modern future.
The National Association of eSports and Randolph-Macon's eSports vision is well-summarized by Curtis Baugh's description of this emerging industry in The Best College Review:
"The old stereotype of the young, single, male gamer living in his parents’ basement is no longer true," Baugh writes. "Astonishingly, more people watch eSports competitions over the course of a year than the NBA Finals, World Series or Stanley Cup Finals. The field known as eSports—competitive tournament-style video gaming—has grown by leaps and bounds.... And as a global, multi-billion dollar swells around this culture, all kinds of opportunities await young competitors with specialized gaming talents. With more and more colleges offering both programs and scholarships for eSport competitors, this is likely only the beginning."
If you or someone you know is a standout gamer who wants to compete in collegiate-level tournaments as an eSports athlete, tell them to submit an eSports Athlete Recruitment Form on the Randolph-Macon website. You can also learn more by visiting NACE's student information hub and eSports athletic network, BeRecruited.
Do you think video games are a sport? Are you good enough to be an eSports athlete, or do you know someone who is? Tell them to sign up and tag them in the comments below!