Did you know that eSports have been on college campuses in one form or another since 1972?
They’ve come a long way since then.
Today, universities are finally allowing for eSports to be considered in college curriculum, and some schools are even allowing students to declare eSports as a minor. Let’s look at some of the ways the eSports community has evolved on college campuses.
Although eSports have grown in the past 50 years, roadblocks still exist to recognizing eSports as a varsity sport on campus. However, there are plenty of options for improving the eSports community on college campuses.
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eSports Background at Colleges
The first ever video game tournament was hosted on a college campus in 1972. Players gathered in the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Lab to compete in Spacewar.
The grand prize was a subscription to Rolling Stone magazine. While tournament gaming moved from there into the public sphere, it has begun to circle back to the collegiate world again as colleges and universities embrace its potential.
In 2014, Robert Morris University began this new chapter of gaming history by becoming the first school to offer eSports scholarships and recognizing the legitimacy of eSports as a sport. Other schools slowly began to follow suit, including University of California – Irvine, the University of Utah, and Harrisburg University.
In fall 2022, West Virginia University will offer a new 15-credit minor in eSports in addition to creating its own eSports team. Creating a new curriculum around gaming is a recognition of how lucrative the eSports industry has become and that a new generation of skilled workers will be needed to move it forward.
With eSports becoming a larger campus presence each year, it would seem like the task of regulating them should fall to the NCAA, but that organization has elected not to do the job. Instead, other organizations have cropped up throughout the country to serve as governors for collegiate eSports. So far, this system has worked well despite a lack of centralized control.
Challenges of Communicating eSports as a Varsity Sport on Campus
In the past eight years, over 175 colleges and universities have adopted an eSports varsity program, but several challenges exist for schools considering whether eSports can be viable as a varsity sport their campus, including:
- It can be difficult to determine whether an eSports program should be a varsity sport or student-run. There are pros and cons to each path. Varsity programs can be regulated by larger governing bodies with more available resources, but student-run organizations have more freedom to partner with professional leagues and platforms.
- Equipment and facilities can be difficult to procure. Not only do gamers need high-powered PCs to play their sport, they need a reliable high-speed internet connection. Add to that the need for some sort of tournament facility and the ability to travel with desktop computers, and many schools may find these requirements prohibitive.
- Financial aid and scholarships must be funded if a varsity program is in place.
- Recruitment and marketing become necessary when an institution is offering a varsity program. Schools need to devote energy and resources to this task.
- eSports coaches and leaders need to select which games will be played competitively. This can be a tough choice since most gamers specialize in one game over all the rest. If a student plays League of Legends, for example, they will only be interested in playing for a program that features this game.
Encouraging Team Leaders to be Visible and Share Successes
Anyone wanting to start and run a successful eSports program on a college campus should make it their goal to be visible and promote their audience through various marketing channels.
Team leaders should encourage growth and marketing for their team and not hesitate to enlist the power of social media channels as an avenue for sharing their successes.
“Our Esport Ambassadors plan weekly virtual and in-person tournaments, develop systems of rules and policies for play, engage our campus Esport and gaming community through social media, organize and run special events, and assist with developing competitive gaming club teams to represent the university.”
DePaul University, who is actively recruiting for Esports Ambassadors and offer a scholarship
“This scholarship will award students $500 per quarter for the Fall, Winter, and Spring Quarters, totaling a $1500 award for students selected. Out of the applicants, 10 full-time freshman students will be chosen by the Esports team for enrollment in the program.”
Building an Ambassador Program Where eSports Players Meet with Other On-Campus Groups
If students want to explore opportunities to learn skill sets such as tournament organizing, marketing, and branding, they should consider joining an ambassador program.
Ambassador programs vary from school to school. For example, the ambassador program at the University of North Carolina – Asheville is a place for students who want to organize tournaments and events and help shape the eSports program at the university.
At DePaul University, the ambassadors program is focused on providing opportunities for students to gain skills to work in the world of eSports. The DePaul program awards a $1500 scholarship to 10 freshman students each year.
Celebrating the Recruiting of New eSports Players in Campus Communication
With eSports being a relatively new arrival in the collegiate world, it’s important for colleges and universities to create a positive and exciting culture around their eSports programs.
Varsity eSports are a great way to recruit and engage students. The recruitment of new players should be celebrated, and pains should be made to post new players to various social media platforms to generate excitement on campus.
Setting Expectations for Grades and Appropriate Behavior as eSports Representatives
As is the case with traditional team sports, eSports can help bring out the best in people as they develop better social and behavioral skills. Players need to have a good teamwork ethic, so the ability to communicate and collaborate with others is crucial.
But just as with traditional sports, a healthy team culture should be cultivated and maintained. There needs to be a high expectation of excellence for player behavior and conduct, both during gameplay and elsewhere.
And students can’t be allowed to let their grades suffer for the sake of the sport. They should be expected to meet the same high academic standards that all students are working toward.
eSports is clearly here to stay, and more colleges and universities are embracing its potential each year.
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading about the rise of eSports in higher education and how it can be better utilized going forward. Do you have any thoughts, opinions, or experiences in this area? Let us know in the comments!