Once again, teenagers who want to pursue a competitive collegiate gaming career have some scholarship options to choose from. Colleges and universities are looking to the popularity of esports as a method of staying relevant to students’ interests.
Columbia College in Missouri joins Robert Morris University and the University of Pikeville in offering scholarships to students who will compete on the school’s League of Legends team. Columbia’s esports program will launch in the fall of 2016, and the college is currently hiring a coach who will oversee the recruiting process.
“Esports aren’t the future. They’re the present,” said College President Scott Dalrymple. “True skill at video gaming is just as impressive–and just as legitimate–as excellence in traditional sports.”
Columbia hopes to seek local players especially for the teams. In League of Legends, matches are most often played between two teams of five. Columbia is looking for ten players to fill out two League teams, with one alternate for each. The College is converting an old soccer locker room into an all-purpose “gaming hut,” not just for the teams, but for all Columbia College students. Esports Director Brian Curtis said it will be outfitted with modern consoles like the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, and that he hopes students will use the space to relax after their classes.
While Columbia College’s efforts are definitely solid, I hope that the college will consider actively recruiting and supporting female League of Legends players. Esports are not gender segregated like physical sports are, but there are far less female players simply because of the culture. Universities have a chance to create aggressive change in that sphere. Colleges like Columbia could make great strides towards bringing gender equality to esports.
Esports may not be getting as much mainstream attention as physical sports, but they have all the viewership and more. The League of Legends World Finals draw millions of viewers, and pull together prize pools also in the millions of dollars. In April of this year, ESPN broadcast a collegiate Heroes of the Storm tournament between UC Berkeley and Arizona State.
League of Legends gets almost 50 million players each day, and is one of the most popular games in the world. It’s a tower defense game that takes teamwork, strategy, and lots of practice to master.