The Rise of E-Sports
There has been a recent rise in popularity in e-sports in the United States. E-sports are defined as competitive video games that are being treated as a sport. Many modern games have competitive aspects to them to allow players around the world to compete against each other, and see who is the best in the world. Such a phenomenon is new in the U.S., but has long been an established institution in other countries, such as South Korea. Just like in traditional sports, there are even leagues for college students to compete against each other to see who’s the best at the collegiate level.
“League of Legends” is one of many games that hosts collegiate tournaments. “uLoL Rivalries,” a collegiate e-sports league, has recently been released by Yahoo and Riot Games, the developer of League of Legends, according to Sports Illustrated. Over the course of five weeks starting Nov. 4, ten rival teams at the college level will face off in “League of Legends”, and fans are able to narrow down the 12 rivalries to five through a voting process happening now.
Collegiate teams are also eligible for prizes, many of which are large cash sums. All players on a first place “League of Legends” team can earn $30,000, and second place players can earn $15,000, according to Engadget. “Heroes of the Storm,” a game developed by Blizzard, collegiate tournament winners are offered free tuition.
To support the growing e-sports population, the University of California, Irvine has recently opened an e-sports arena on their campus. The arena is 3,500 square feet and is home to 80 gaming computers in addition to a webcasting studio and viewing screens. The computers and accessories were all donated to the school by companies such as iBuyPower, Logitech and Vertagear, according to Business Insider.
The University of California, Irvine is also one of many schools across the US to offer scholarships for gaming, according to The Orange County Register. NPR says that Robert Morris University in Illinois started to offer gaming scholarships in 2014. According to myAJC, KontrolFreek, an Atlanta-based company that makes gear for gamers, gave three students who competed in e-sports $3,000 scholarships.
There were 64 teams that competed in the 2016 Heroes of the Dorm, the collegiate version of “Heroes of the Storm” by Blizzard, championships from across the US earlier this year. In the end, it was Arizona State University that took the 2016 championship, according to the Heroes of the Dorm homepage. Other teams that made it to the Heroic Four were the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, the University of Texas, Arlington and the University of Connecticut.
TBS has recently hosted the CounterStrike Global Offensive and Overwatch championships, according to Engadget. ESPN is another network that provides news on e-sports. While initially seen as a gamer’s version of “real” sports, e-sports has quickly grown into an industry that can attract massive audiences and big cash just as well as any athletic sport.