Playing video games isn’t a waste of time–in fact, it can open doors to college scholarships and lucrative careers. Esports–multiplayer video games played competitively in front of spectators–is skyrocketing in popularity.
Colleges are offering scholarships for esports athletes who join a collegiate esports program. This increased competition for student gamers means students are looking for schools with great academics and top-level resources and equipment.
Esports is surging in popularity, with the overall market expected to reach nearly $2.2 billion by 2023.
Colleges and universities are recruiting esports athletes, along with those in support roles such as IT and business management, left and right. Along with the growing demand for esports comes the need for modern esports facilities designed to handle the infrastructure needs such programs demand.
As collegiate esports expands, here are some of the latest and most important developments to keep in mind:
1. There are detailed rankings for collegiate esports. Miami University was one of the first top-ranked institutions in the U.S. to launch a varsity esports program. In 2017, the school’s varsity Overwatch team took first place in the National Association of Collegiate Esports Overwatch season. Coming in second, UC Irvine was the first public university to create an official esports program. The school viewed an esports program as both a practical extension of its successful computer game science major and the thriving gaming community.
2. You can take a few steps to create a strong collegiate esports program. These steps include hiring a good administrator–it’s important that your head coach or director understand the goals of a college program; building a dedicated esports facility with gaming computers, peripherals, and furniture, as well as a dedicated internet connection that isn’t used by the rest of the campus; and more.
3. Research is showing the widespread benefits found in collegiate esports. Students involved in extracurricular activities are more engaged in the classroom and in their studies. Esports can also introduce students to science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM) careers. As academia recognizes the benefits of esports, schools are building programs around it to help with the recruitment and retention of students. However, an overlooked piece that could benefit esports is scientific research and its effects on student players to help coaches and directors structure their programs.
4. Collegiate esports helps students find their place. Over the last several years, schools and universities have realized that esports provides an environment that mirrors many of the benefits of traditional sports, including a sense of community and camaraderie, an outlet for self-expression, and a sense of pride. This holds especially true for students who are uninterested or felt excluded from traditional sports and other extracurricular activities. It’s a gateway for many to find their “place” doing something they are passionate about within their scholastic environment.
5. Collegiate esports can–and should–be done with equity. Coastline College, a multi-campus community college located in Orange County, CA, has joined the collegiate esports phenomenon, but with a twist. Although gaming and esports are perceived as a male-dominated industry, at Coastline College the three people leading the school’s esports program, the development of esports, and the curriculum associated with esports are women and women of color.