If you ever told someone that you got a full ride to college on a scholarship for being good at Mario Kart, they would have given you the strangest look possible. Then asked if you were serious. Followed by asking how they could get in on such a thing, despite always getting slammed by the infamous red shell.
Today, universities across the nation are revving their esports engines, preparing opportunities for up-in-coming gamers. Since the explosion in popularity of competitive gaming, academic institutions have taken notice and see huge potential.
Some may say that esports should not be recognized as a sport. Why exactly? Team-based video games such as League of Legends and Overwatch require teamwork and effective communication skills to achieve victory. Fighting games such as Street Fighter and Tekken, require players to have sharp reaction-based skills and think through each combo to set up big damage-dealing maneuvers. Virtual card games like Hearthstone, require strategic deck building and critical thinking skills. In many ways, video games are no different than typical mainstream sports that require identical skillsets.
If the thought of going to college for being extremely good at a video game boggles your mind, well it is perfectly understandable. Although plenty of universities have sought after developing their esports programs, it is still a relatively new concept.
That does not mean that colleges are moving slowly with the esports phenomenon. The University of Ohio launched its own esports program back in October 2018, to help develop its gaming education program. A state-of-the-art arena is being constructed at the University of Ohio where gaming-related classes will be taught, and the university’s esports team will train and compete.
Construction of arenas has become a sought after investment by universities who are serious about supporting esports. The University of Texas has even invested roughly $200,000 into their own esports facility, known as “The Nest.” With a student body of approximately 40,000, the University of Texas knows that competition between universities is truly cut-throat, as each throws hundreds of thousands, and sometimes even millions, of dollars into gaming rigs, arenas, merchandise, lighting, coaching, and many other necessities to produce the biggest esports events today.
This embrace of esports culture is not only a marketing technique, by “hopping onto the latest trends,” but also serves as a means to help promote greater education in the field of gaming. Plenty of talented programmers, businessmen/women, artists, and event organizers in the gaming world have emerged from some of the most prominent named schools today. Most of the time, their success was through work experience while their college education served to help get them the base knowledge they needed.
Colleges are now seeing this as an opportunity to create more “niche” programs, which will give business, art, computer science, and other programs a gaming focus. As colleges, such as the previously mentioned University of Ohio, look to learn and understand the gaming community, Full Sail University is one such academy that has been ahead of the crowd.
With several choices in game development, production, and other creative-focused studies, Full Sail has been a critical choice for those who wish to pursue a career in gaming. To stay competitive, Full Sail opened up their esports arena, known as “The Fortress,” to give the Armada (their collegiate esports team) the home they deserve. Armada competes in several major titles such as Overwatch, League of Legends, and Hearthstone, all while hosting events for their community to enjoy.
Seeing gaming become accepted by institutions of higher education is truly a beautiful thing. It shows that the world now understands the artistic and competitive nature that gaming has on the planet.
With esports scholarships now available, gamers have even more options to help them pay for their education. Perhaps now is the time to start honing up your CoD skills to get that big grant you’ve been dreaming of.