Video gamers to be offered college scholarships in US
This autumn, the Chicago university will be the first in the US to offer an athletic scholarship to video gamers.
Kurt Melcher has defended the controversial decision, saying that playing a video game is a team sport and that there is strategy involved – although he admitted that “it’s not cardiovascular in any way.”
“Twenty-three million people play ‘League of Legends’ a day. This demographic is perfect for universities. I see it as an opportunity for this community, which is very passionate about their game, to give them the option to – just like a basketball player – to do something that they love while gaining their education,” Melcher told RT.
The president of the university, Michael Viollt, is also very much behind the decision. He believes the video game team could represent and reach out to part of the population which has previously been underrepresented in higher education – technologically minded young men who are not into team sports.
“I don’t care if it's chess club or ice fishing. We want these kids to be engaged in something they love,” Viollt told the Chicago Tribune.
Competitive video gaming, known as “e-sport,” has been around for years, but has really only taken off in the last five years, with top players sometimes earning more than $100,000 annually.
League of Legends has a massive global following. Thousands of spectators show up at professional tournaments, while tens of millions of people watch them online. Competitive League of Legends has also sprung up at the high school and college level.
E-sports scholarships are still in their infancy. Kent Brown, a spokesman for the athletic department at The University of Illinois, said his university is not planning to create a varsity gaming program.
Brown also said he is not aware of any college other than Robert Morris which offers e-sports scholarships, but believes similar programs will now be opened at other institutions.
“So many talented people are getting into gaming. It seems like a no-brainer,” he told the Tr