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Video games and university never used to go hand in hand, with gaming taking pride of place over studying for some students with a knack for procrastination. Now, video games are being put front and centre at many universities that are instituting eSports-related courses of study. Some of these universities and colleges are even considering eSports to be on par with traditional sports such as football, cricket, and rugby when offering scholarships to prospective students. Video games, particularly eSports, have gone from being viewed as a distraction to getting an education to becoming a way to not only fund higher education, but to possibly create long-term professional careers.
Scholarships for gaming make higher education more accessible
The University of Roehampton was the first university based in the United Kingdom to offer eSports scholarships, starting in 2019. The first student to claim the £1,500 a year scholarship of the ten made available was Julia Cwierz, who is a Diamond League of Legends player studying law.
In Canada and the United States, eSports has made a larger foothold with colleges. The National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE) recognises over 80 colleges that are eSports-friendly. Since 2016, NACE has given more than 1,500 college students scholarships and related financial aid reaching $9 million. Some colleges offer game-specific scholarships such as those for League of Legends and even popular battle royal game Fortnite. Maybe we will see additional scholarships offered for other competitive games like Quake Champions.
In the US, many colleges are building eSports-specific facilities for gamers to not only hone their skills in various competitive games but also to create streams on popular platforms such as Twitch and YouTube, which can help develop gaming communities and advertise a college or university’s facilities.
eSports is not pocket change
eSports has a projected valuation of $1.65 billion by 2021. This means it’s not going anywhere other than up in the next several years. Game publishers behind these competitive games have been quick to capitalise on eSports growth via sponsorships with companies such as Red Bull, Disney, and Betway, who are proud sponsors of BIG, Ninja’s in Pyjamas, Invictus Gaming, and many more.
Competitive gaming as a degree
As eSports increases in popularity, the demand will grow for qualified persons to manage, train, and expand the teams involved. Game companies will need well-trained professionals to assist in creating the next great competitive game. Parents wanting to get their children into the best universities may begin looking for qualified people to train their children in the art of competition-based gaming.
This demand will necessitate higher education facilities offering dedicated competitive gaming degrees in the future. eSports coaches will be in great demand in the coming years as more parents begin to accept competitive gaming as a viable option for their children to earn scholarships to afford higher education.
Life after competitive gaming is still ripe for players
Universities offering dedicated courses to certify eSports coaches can improve the quality of training students receive. Professional coaches will lend a sense of realism and legitimacy to eSports as players ‘retiring from the sport’ can continue educating the next wave of players or seek employment with game companies.
Unlike traditional sports, which are tough on the body, eSports athletes have less strenuous situations to face. This means that with proper exercise an eSports athlete could be competitive for many years beyond a similar athlete in more traditional sports.
Where eSports goes next will dictate its future in universities
eSports scholarships are a new avenue for universities to open their doors to prospective students. Currently, there are no actual courses focused on eSports. This could and should change in the future, as the history of gaming, not just competitive gaming, is rich and represents a large portion of modern-day society. While still not accepted on the same level as traditional sports, eSports is certainly gaining ground inside and outside of universities across the globe.