Get your PhD With Video Games (Sort of)

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I’m good at video games. I’ve been playing for 20 years and I’ve developed some good skills from them. Yet I never planned on using them to help me academically. In fact, listening to my mother, you’d think they would have the opposite effect. 

ESports was still in its infantile stage while I was growing up, and is expected to die soon. Yet now, eSports tournaments generate tens of millions (if not more) of dollars annually, and its athletes are world-renowned. 

Families are supported, lives are made, and legacies are established. Now eSports is so big that universities and colleges all over the world are investing in developing a strong presence.

It all began with Robert Morris University in 2014. As the first school in the country to offer athletic scholarships for eSports, RMU was also the first to give gamers everywhere hope that their unique skills could also be used to help get through school and even lead to a career. 

ESports is still relatively new to the collegiate scene. It began with tournaments in the 1980s, challenging players to best each other’s high scores. It is now a multi-billion dollar industry that pits thousands of players against each other in competitive games like Overwatch, DOTA 2, Battlefield, and League of Legends

While previously gamers had no outlet or venue in college, like other kinds of athletes, it is now becoming common for universities to offer scholarships, programs, and even classes related to eSports. Here are a few examples:

Robert Morris University – With a program that offers up to 50% of tuition, room, and board off, the first college in America to offer eSports scholarships allows students to far more easily study and play.

Columbia College – After the college president’s offer to pay for any student’s textbooks if they could best him at Madden, he stressed the importance of recognizing the skill of video gamers, and a scholarship program was established.

University of Pikeville – As the second school to offer eSports scholarships, UPike offers both League of Legends and Hearthstone scholarships. They believe that a good gamer has the same qualities that make a good student, and hope to nurture both.

University of Utah – As the first school in the Power Five (highest level collegiate football schools), they offer partial scholarships for members of their Varsity League of Legends team. While the Big Ten did offer a one-time payment for success in their collaboration league with Riot Games (in the Big Ten League of Legends league), UU is the first one to offer continual scholarships for scoring a spot on their team.

Maryville University – As the reigning champions of the League of Legends College Championships for the last two years, true eSports stars can be expected to look for a spot here. The scholarship offered here for eSports is likely incentive to maintain that title for at least another year.

Southwestern College – This institution offers two options for students seeking scholarships. Competitors receive a $5000 annual grant, and participants don’t. While participants don’t receive grants for the eSports, they can still receive grants from other programs at Southwestern and still play for the college’s team.

University of California, Irvine – This school went full-tilt in creating a strong gaming environment. Their eSports arena is packed with high-end gaming equipment, competitions, and even webcasting equipment. So those that manage to score scholarships have the opportunity to truly flourish.

Kansas Wesleyan University – As one of the few programs that has already been around for a bit, they offer one of the biggest programs in the country. Their website boasts of a dedicated room with state of the art PCs and gaming amenities.

Tiffin University, Midland University, Southwest Baptist University, Indiana Tech, Miami University, Lourdes University, Trine University, Lees-McRae College, and the University of Jamestown also offer scholarships and eSports programs, albeit with less notable current achievements.

While all of these schools have made great stride in making eSports more universally recognizable as a talent driven endeavor, there are still problems. Most of these programs focus or revolve around League of Legends, ignoring other titans like DOTA 2, Starcraft, Overwatch (admittedly kind of new, yet its explosive popularity and already strong professional presence should be enough to warrant plans for programs), and CS:GO

The focus is far too strong on team eSports. With the massive popularity that single player games receive, like Tekken, Street Fighter, and Smash Bros, there needs to be an extension into other fields of eSports. Finally, the programs still have SIGNIFICANTLY less funding than any physical sport scholarship, and very limited advertisement and awareness.

The concept of eSports scholarships is wonderful and innovative, indicative of a future in which people of ALL skills are valued and appreciated. It shows that games are no longer looked upon as “children’s toys”, but actual forms of both entertainment and art. 

Now, when parents tell a talented child that “those video games will get you nowhere in life”, gamers everywhere can value their talents with pride knowing that there are paths for them as well.

Would you go for a scholarship in ESports? Let me know in the comments!

Sasha's given name is actually Aleksander. His main interests are gaming, manga, anime, cooking, and Japanese pop culture. He's a Psychology major and English minor and head of the largest Sci-Fi/Anime club at Queens College. He's been writing semi-regularly since the age of 13 and can't wait to write more.
Francisco.Lahoz    ORIGINAL GONGSTER
michael.geary    ORIGINAL GONGSTER
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