| 03.24.2018

Gaming bursts


Video games could shift college athletics

In the dead of night, illuminated by the glow of my computer screen, I poured myself into a competitive, immersive world ruled by button-mashing and foul language.

It was my freshman year of high school, and while my friends were out throwing footballs, shooting free-throws and doing all other sorts of “sportsball” games, I was raiding in World of Warcraft to get better gear.

Jake Smith

Jake Smith

While my pimpled cohorts were training to get stronger muscles, I was also training and getting stronger. Player-versus-player combat in any game, let alone WoW, requires the utmost dedication.

I feel no shame in admitting I took joy in such a stigmatized game, since these days gaming has become a professional and well-respected sport.

According to a 2014 New York Times article, “More than 10,000 students now play in the biggest college league, 4,400 more than last year and 4,600 more than the number of men who play on Division I college basketball teams.”

E-sports, as competitive gaming has come to be known, has a presence and recognition in the realm of collegiate athletics. It will only grow with time.

As of now, its presence is steadily increasing, and any opposition to e-sports — or gaming as a whole — would have a hard time catching it. A total of 114.4 million people viewed this year’s Super Bowl XLIX, according to a recent report by CNN Money.

In comparison to this number, according to the Wall Street Journal, Twitch Interactive’s monthly viewers averaged 100 million as of December 2014, more than doubling the reported 45 million the prior year.

Twitch Interactive allows users to live-stream their gaming for the public to watch online.

The National Collegiate e-Sports Association sports 22 eastern schools and 17 western schools in the respective districts.

Robert Morris University in Chicago now offers e-sports scholarships for athletes playing League of Legends, Hearthstone and Dota 2, according to Tech Times.

The Tech Times reported that another school, University of Pikeville in Kentucky, will launch its e-sports program in fall 2015.

There are multiple competitions, many with cash prizes, provided by various outlets.

Blizzard, the company that created WoW, will host Heroes of the Dorm, a competition where teams comprised of college students compete in its new game, Heroes of the Storm.

According to Blizzard, the five players on the winning team will earn tuition for their college career. If there’s a fourth year student on the team, she or he can win up to $25,000 to pay back college expenses.

Heroes of the Dorm’s finalists will compete live April 26, and ESPN will televise the event.

With the increasing prevalence of professional gaming, society should reassess the stigma and stereotypes around gaming. The young lady playing League of Legends instead of joining the soccer team may have a lucrative career, and perhaps is not wasting her time.

The high school boy jabbering about his arena run in Hearthstone is maybe not as non-productive as society makes him out to be.

One day, entire stadiums could watch his electronic card game or her League of Legends tournament with as much awe as watching a star quarterback.

Whether at the collegiate, high school or professional level, e-sports will soon require all of society to recognize video games as more than an idle, damaging hobby.

With presence and recognition, gaming in collegiate athletics should increase. And from the looks of it, collegiate gaming is well on its way.

Jake Smith can be reached at arg-opinion@uidaho.edu

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