Last year, 27 million unique viewers tuned in to the 2014 World Championships of League of Legends, a competitive e-sport (online multiplayer game/sport). That’s more than the every man, woman, and child in Texas! Even more amazing was the 11 million people that tuned in to the final match alone, where two teams went all out to compete for 1 million dollars of prize money. Astonishingly, colleges still haven’t considered offering gamers money from their scholarship programs that support more than 170,000 full-scholarship college athletes. This is not something that should be ignored. Gamers should be considered as college athletes and have available to them the athletic scholarships that colleges offer.
E-sports are sports. Period. A sport is defined as an athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often of a competitive nature, all of which meet the requirements of e-sports. This genre of videogames has grown immensely over the few years of its existence, and the spike in popularity isn’t an anomaly. Although similar to current NCAA sanctioned sports, the public is being misled into thinking e-sports as an unproductive, useless pastime. This negative public attitude is caused by the stubbornness of the colleges and the NCAA to allow e-sports onto the college scene. E-sports are frowned upon and strongly discouraged since there are no paths to college or a successful career.
Sports have always been about having fun and right now, colleges are hindering e-sport’s fun. Almost all colleges offer “physical” sports scholarships – an opportunity to go to a good college without perfect grades — and after that, these “physical” sports have national leagues where top players can rack up millions of dollars per year. Even though an e-sport and “physical” sport athlete spends the same amount of commitment, effort and time perfecting their sport, the “physical” sport athlete has an added benefit, while the e-sport athlete is left in the dark. Adding e-sports to the NCAA will just make it even better for students who spend time perfecting their skills in the digitized world to achieve in reality, and help engage the other portion of the population who enjoy watching online games more than physical head-butting.
As an e-sport gamer and swimmer, I know that there are less physical prerequisites to play e-sports. A 1-inch height advantage could mean the difference of making a div. 1 or div. 2 school. Physically disadvantaged athletes have to put in a lot more work in order to compensate for their biological disadvantage. E-sports, on the other hand, allow biologically disadvantaged athletes a more equal playing field against their opponents, using the mind as the primary weapon, where strength is not of a concern.
If you are still not convinced, and say that it is a hassle to add e-sports into the NCAA sports system, and due to the fast paced rule changing of some e-sports (with monthly patches), there is no universal strategy. Furthermore, you maybe worried e-sports have a possibility of suddenly losing popularity, as e-sport athletes often transition to a different better e-sport. Sure, these are legitimate issues, but it isn’t uncommon for “physical” sports to lose popularity. In the past few decades, the NCAA has added/removed championships as the popularity of sports fluctuated. Even better, e-sports offer easy solutions to judging games. The computer’s verdict is final; there are no bad referee calls. And lastly, e-sports require less space to practice and the equipment/facilities needed are the same for all e-sports. Sports require training rooms, and competition facilities, often expensive to build and maintain. E-sports require just a computer and Internet connection, which is quite common within the US.
E-sports are definitely better than sports for athletes, but are e-sports fun to watch? Definitely! E-sports have all the action, without the injuries. The playing field is as creative as the developers want it to be. The nervousness and the agony of losing are all packed in there. I’ve seen ridiculously close games, and championships won by the underdogs. It’s caused both grief and exhilaration.
If you’re the type of person who hasn’t even attempted enjoying video games and e-sports and have already decided dislike it, don’t be ignorant and try it out. As the world becomes digitized, why shouldn’t sports be as well? Like it or not, e-sports will continuously grow in popularity, so help accelerate the adoption by offering athletic scholarships to e-sport athletes.
TL;DR Online Multiplayer Computer games in general are becoming a new past-time, replacing physical sports in popularity. Instead of trying to stultify the change, we should embrace it, and allow a scholarship path (in colleges) to those who choose the path of e-sports. :)