Say goodbye to the days of traditional collegiate sports and hello to the age of competitive online gaming. Having a passion for video games and knowledge about how to play them is finally paying off.
In 2016, the National Association of Collegiate Esports formed in Kansas City, MO. This nonprofit organization supports more than 80 schools that claim membership and about 1,500 student-athletes. The corporation hosts more than 31 video game programs and provides over $9 million in Esports based financial aid.
This year, the NACE is scheduled to partner with Hi-Rez Studios to host the college national championships for games Smite and Paladin. Both tournaments are set to be hosted at the Georgia World Congress Center on November 17 during the gaming festival, Dreamhack Atlanta 2018.
The tournament will be open to varsity and club-level university teams alike and between both national championships, $100,000 worth of scholarship prizes will be awarded.
More than 30 colleges around the United States have started offering esports scholarships to students who may not be so orthodox in their athletic inclinations.
Robert Morris University initiated the esports scholarship program in the United States. Jose Espin, the esports program coordinator at RMU,
said that his team’s focus is really on the mentality of the players.
He said that esports are becoming more mainstream and that teams are starting to look at big-name sponsors, like Geico and State Farm.
“People ask me if gaming is a sport and I say it doesn’t matter; it’s going to be bigger than expected,” Espin said.
Although RMU pioneered the program, gaming scholarships and esports are on the rise in the collegiate sports arena for many schools.
The University of Utah and the University of California Irvine are now offering partial scholarships for gamers, with the eventual intention of offering full financial reimbursement for students on gaming teams.
Josiah Keys, sophomore graphic design major at California Baptist University, said gaming plays a big role in his free time after classes, and he
thinks the possibility of getting a scholarship for doing something he really enjoys would be awesome.
“I like gaming because it is a good way to unwind and destress when you finish your work for the day. Depending on the video game, I would be interested to see a competative gaming team being formed for the school I’d like that.”
Chad Gaines, junior accounting major, said the potential program also peaked his interest.
“That definitely sounds fun and seems like it would be a good way to connect with people who have a similar interest in gaming,” Gaines said.
With the popularity of games on the rise among college students, it will be interesting to witness the role online gaming adopts within the collegiate sports arena over the coming years.