eSports Academy Introduction Course 110
The Beginnings of Collegiate eSports
eSports has recently begun gathering a larger viewing and playing population. Many players stream themselves live on Twitch or post videos on YouTube as a means of gaining fans, entertaining people, and earning a living. Professional eSports teams such as SK Telecom T1, Team Liquid, and Team SoloMid, have many teams within the organization that play different video games. The more popular games range from League of Legends and DOTA 2 to CS: GO and Overwatch. Other games played by these teams are Rocket League, Brawlhalla and Super Smash Brothers. The teams compete on both national and international stages, where winning earns them fame and a large money reward.
As eSports has started gaining the attention of the masses, various colleges and universities have also created eSports facilities with complementing curriculum to promote the gaming industry as a collegiate sport. Some of the programs actively recruit for players, allowing students to directly apply to the college as an eSports hopeful student. Others do not recruit but rather allow students to try out and join teams after they are accepted to the university for a more traditional major.
Top 10 Universities with the Best eSports Programs and Facilities
1. Maryville University of Saint Louis
Maryville created their eSports program in 2015 and was the biggest name in college eSports after winning the 2016 League of Legends championship with a 40-0 record. They won the same championship again in 2017, and a third time this year. Thus, it comes as no surprise that they focus on League of Legends. This university maintains a state-of-the-art practice facility with the best internet possible for low ping and high FPS (frames-per-second). Along with high-speed computers, the facility also comes with top-of-the-line headsets and gaming chairs for maximum comfort and complete concentration. Maryville offers scholarships up to $2,000.
2. Miami University (Ohio)
Miami University in Ohio is a D-1 athletics university. The school started offering eSports scholarships in 2016, and in 2017, their varsity Overwatch team earned first place in the NACE Overwatch Tournament. On the first floor of King Library is the arena built for the eSports program. This arena features 16 gaming stations, with each gaming computer possessing high-end graphics cards and monitors. Along with the computers are several large screen TVs that students can use to review past games and watch live games. Miami University also offers eSports summer camps where people can train like varsity team players and compete in tournaments.
3. University of California at Irvine
UC Irvine in California became the very first public university to create a varsity eSports team. They focus mostly on Overwatch and League of Legends, and award a $5,610 scholarship to League of Legends players, and a $2,500 scholarship to Overwatch players. According to campus statistics, around 72% of UC Irvine students play video games. UC Irvine has one of the US’s most extensive eSports facilities, which houses over 70 gaming computers and a large arena for games and competitions. Each computer and monitor set comes with a high-quality keyboard, mouse and headset. There is also a Console and Community Corner for players to play other console games.
4. Robert Morris University (Illinois)
This university operates in the heart of Chicago and created the idea of varsity eSports programs, and offered the first eSports scholarships to prospective members of the school’s League of Legends team back in 2014. The team competes in games such as League of Legends, Overwatch, CS: GO, and DOTA 2. They have dedicated coaches for these teams and have several sponsorships that provide the players with some of the best facilities in the nation. Some sponsors include iBuyPower, ASUS, Cooler Master, and DXRacer, which produce high quality gaming PCs, keyboards, mice, and gaming chairs. RMU players and students have access to over 20 gaming computers in their arena.
5. Illinois Wesleyan University
This university is a private liberal arts school and is relatively new to eSports. The program only began competing and giving scholarships to recruited players in the fall of 2018. Illinois Wesleyan University focuses mostly on League of Legends, which makes logical sense given that League is the most popular MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) game in the world. IWU has also constructed an eSports facility in the Hansen Student Center to give their varsity program a strong start. The arena contains 17 Alienware computers and monitors along with custom Vertagear chairs. Twelve of these computers can be used by all students when not being used for practice; the other five are exclusively for team members. Outside the arena is a 55-inch screen where other students can watch the live stream of IWU’s competitions.
6. University of Utah
The University of Utah is a later participant in the eSports world. However, they have become one of the largest universities to offer varsity eSports scholarships, which are currently around $1,000 per year. They also have an undergraduate gaming degree as of 2017, but have had a game development program since 2007. The University of Utah brands itself as ‘Gamer U’, competing in games like League of Legends, Overwatch, and Hearthstone. Utah has a gaming facility housing at least 20 gaming computers, each station coming with top-notch keyboards, mice, and monitors. Every year, roughly 200 students tryout for the varsity team, but only 30 or so make the team.
7. University of Akron (Ohio)
The University of Akron also launched its varsity eSports program relatively late, in the fall of 2018. Their teams compete in Overwatch, CS: GO, League of Legends, Rocket League, and Hearthstone. This program also looks for students in engineering, computer science, and other fields to help build their eSports arenas, livestream games, and design logos and other managerial aspects. They also wish to have students who major in Health and wellness in order to maintain player wellness and mental health. The University also has three different state-of-the-art eSport facilities on their campus. The first is for varsity teams and has 24 PC stations and 5 Console stations. The second is for recreational teams and has 24 PC stations and 10 Console stations. The third is a showcase venue where students can watch the varsity teams compete.
8. University of California at Berkeley
UC Berkeley’s arena is quite new, but already contains 54 top-of-the-line gaming computers sponsored by NVIDIA. Berkeley also has a Women in Gaming initiative that aims to increase the female population in the gaming industry. They work to make eSports more inclusive for women and encourage women to pursue careers in eSports. There is also an Open Play Gaming Area that will house the Intramural eSports program by starting with League of Legends. The Players’ Lounge is a relaxing area consisting of large TVs and seats for streaming. The Streaming and Broadcasting Booth is for students to connect both on and off-campus via Twitch, and serves as a streaming location for all official Cal Esports matches. Lastly, there is the Cal Esports Teams Gaming Area that is designated for Berkeley’s competitive gaming teams.
9. Boise State University
Boise State created its eSports program in 2017, which originally focused on Rocket League, Overwatch and League of Legends, it has since also adopted Heroes of the Storm and Hearthstone. They are a D-1 athletics school and is part of NACE. Their tryout process is extensive and lasts a week long at the start of the school year. They also require players to maintain a minimum GPA of 3.0. The eSports program is in the Education Building and is hosted by the Department of Educational Technology. The arena has a professional broadcasting section, a graphics and technical mixing area, and a two-tiered stage system. In addition to all this, there is also a large spectating area for viewers to watch the games live.
10. Georgia State University
Georgia State’s eSports program is still in its startup stages, but the central location in Georgia, the university’s resources and reputation has placed it in the ideal situation to see massive growth in the future. The university already offers scholarships to eSports athletes as supplements to one of their already existing scholarships. Recruited players focus on League of Legends, Brawlhalla, and Smite, and are recruited via competitions and orientation sessions. Students who are not competitive players participate in broadcasting, production, and marketing the eSports tournaments. They can also help coach and aid in game development.
The Future for eSports
The future for eSports is looking quite bright. Many people and companies have started investing by buying eSports stocks, and betting is becoming increasingly popular during eSports tournaments and championships. Given the large amounts of money flowing into the eSports industry, it is understandable why universities are willing to invest in gaming computers, build eSport specific arenas or classrooms, and recruit for good players. There is even the possibility of eSports becoming an Olympic event, especially since the Olympic Council of Asia has already included eSports in the 2022 Asian Games.
Recently, however, Gaming Addiction or Gaming Disorder has been named by the World Health Organization as an official medical condition. This condition is characterized by persistent or recurrent gaming behavior that manifests as impaired control over gaming. Players make gaming their priority over other activities, including eating attending school even in the face of negative consequences.
Children who game from a young age are usually monitored by their parents. But once they grow older, they may find it difficult to manage themselves in college. Even before entering college, people can become addicted just from a lack of self-resistance. So, while many young children these days may start playing in the hopes of becoming like their eSports idols, it is important for them to be careful of their gaming behavior.
Nonetheless, eSports is becoming an ever-growing sector in both the economy and collegiate sports. Players looking to join a college eSports team have a long list of schools to choose from, with each school offering a unique facility, program, and atmosphere.
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