June 23, 2014
Normally I like to open with a little story, a way to both tell you all a little something about me and try to relate life in general with what I am going to be talking about/introducing you to. This time though, I find that I am at a total loss. I am so blown away by this latest news that I honestly could not think of a greater lead-in than just admitting that I could not think of a greater lead-in.
The Robert Morris University in Chicago, Illinois, a small private university, is starting a varsity eSports program and, as a first step into that program, is going to be offering scholarships to League of Legends players.
That’s right. You didn’t misread that. There is a school, a certified University, that will be offering scholarships worth up to $19,000 per student (covering 50 percent of both tuition and room-and-board) to students who play League of Legends. Admittedly, this is not going to every student who just so happens to play the game. This will be going to a League of Legends varsity team who will compete for the school just as other college sports teams do. The biggest difference here is that this is a video game.
For those who do not know, League of Legends is an online multiple-player battle arena in which teams of hero avatars battle it out in cooperative, team based game-play. It is a game that I have had no experience with personally, but many of my friends play it at different levels of competitiveness ranging from very casual to moderately competitive. Last I checked, the game has 118 different characters to chose from and the teams gain points by either killing members of the other team or the various minions that will pop-up throughout the mission to try and attack the enemy territory. The game is vastly popular, with an estimated 27 million people playing League of Legends every single day.
The Robert Morris University has recognized the legitimacy of eSports as, well, sports. They have seen the competitive spirit in the game’s players, and have realized that this is the same spirit that pushes players of more traditional college sports. Not surprisingly, the reaction to this news has been split. Associate Athletic Director Kurt Melcher, who is in charge of the school’s varsity eSports program, said, “It’s interesting. There’s two sides: there’s the gamers side, who feel like they’ve been vindicated or liberated. Then there’s the hardcore athletes side, who say, ‘What do you mean? That’s not a sport.’”
Personally, I side more with the former. Although I will not deny being taken aback by the news of this, I am in support of the school’s idea. Games like League of Legends are very competitive and intellectually challenging games, very much like a cooperative version of chess with fun graphics in a fantasy setting. As someone who is not a fan of the more traditional sports, I think that this new idea will put people who are more drawn to the intellectual side of competitive sports — and yes, I just called it a sport – the same advantages that players of the physical sports receive.
So, in closing, good on you, Robert Morrison University. Good on you.
Image Credit: Riot Games Inc.