A stadium filled to the rafters with screaming fans. one-hundred million people. This is not the Super Bowl, NBA Finals or World Series. This is the championship for the video game League of Legends,” and this is esports.
Esports are professional video game competitions. Developers of games such as “League of Legends” organize tournaments in which players compete for prize pools with the largest at $ 24 million.
The games are broadcast on the internet, where fans are able to watch and root for their favorite teams.
“Popularity continues to skyrocket, and with the rise of professional sports teams now taking ownership of pro esports teams, we will continue to see an increase in viewership, fan engagement and competitors,” said Jonathan Accardi, director of esports at Trine University in Angola, Indiana.
With the growth of esports drawing in younger people at a national and international level, some universities have taken steps to incorporate the sport into their collegiate programs, competing against other universities and even offering scholarships to draw the best of the best.
“Our initiative began out of a desire to create community. We wanted to bring students out of their dorm rooms and into physical community connected through virtual worlds,” said Chris Allison, director of eSports at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Missouri. “We saw such great response with a recreational gaming space that we created. We decided to become the 10th school in the United States to start a varsity esports program,” Allison said.
California Baptist University has not escaped the rising tide of esports.
Caleb Cameron, sophomore biochemistry and molecular biology major, plays “Super Smash Bros. 4” professionally. His last tournament was the Evolution Championship Series 2017 in Las Vegas, which had more than 2,500 entries and with the winner earning $25,000. Cameron said the best thing about the tournaments in getting to meet people from all over the world.
“You don’t understand their language but you understand, ’Hey, we both know how to play the same game,” Cameron said.