Video and computer games are moving farther and farther from the simple pastime machines they once were. In fact, just recently, a few months ago, a school officially announced that it would be establishing a program that would put computers games at the same official level as baseball or basketball, something that is already becoming widely known as eSports.
The school in question was none other than the Robert Morris University in Chicago. At the end of May this year, associate athletic director Kurt Melcher proposed building a varsity eSports team for the school. Normally, this would be the type that is reserved for athlete clubs that involve standard sports such as football, basketball, and baseball. However, this new ‘athletes’ club would consist primarily of student players who are considerably capable in competitive online multiplayer games such as MOBAs (Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas). The eSports team would eventually play against other eSports teams in organized contest events, in much the same manner as how regular sports pit teams against each other in their respective sports events.
The school’s general plan called for the recruitment of at least 35 students for partial varsity (70 percent tuition discount) and other varsity reserve scholarship members (35 percent tuition discount). With an initial budget of about $100,000, the project selected 17 varsity and 16 varsity reserve members out of the 3,200 students who comprise the school’s entire student body. The game played by the eSports club at the time of the establishment was none other than the massively popular League of Legends MOBA game. The eSports team then went on to compete in several tournaments, particularly winning second place in Riot Games’ (an American game publisher) North American Collegiate Championships.
The justification for the establishment of the eSports club was primarily directed and influenced by how extracurricular activities have helped students for many generations. Most extracurricular activities such as traditional sports provide the development of other skills, attributes, and characteristics that would otherwise not be present in a standard indoor classroom. Likewise, in an eSports competition, the players are given the opportunity to learn about winning and losing and to show what it takes for teams to accept roles and cooperate. Its integration into a legitimate education program provides even more leverage, as it gives a passive incentive to the student players. These are the same young people who are actively pursuing the game’s competitive elements while carrying the responsibility of a student given the privilege of a scholarship program.
Also, such events further advertise video and computer gamers as recreational activities that are no longer considered “simplistic,” “childish,” and “time-wasting.” Riding the phenomenon introduced by 21st century gaming, the concept of eSports itself celebrates the idea that these games can be viewed as a pillar of improvement, a vessel of competition, or even a vehicle of progress. At the very least, it is now seriously viewed enough to be considered as a brand new extracurricular program for educational institutions.