Athletic scholarship available for playing League of Legends

It has finally happened. At Robert Morris University, a college in Illinois, the computer game League of Legends is now considered a varsity athletic sport and scholarships are being offered to exceptional competitive players, something they trumpet on their home page.

The fact that it’s considered varsity is important; that means students recruited to play the game for the university are considered athletes, complete with the benefits and considerations that entails, including tutors, financial aid of up to 50 percent off tuition and room and board, leave from class for tournaments, and so on.  The college will be recruiting three teams of nine players each.

There are other teams at other universities who play against each other in an unofficial league known as the Collegiate Star League, but this is the first time the game has been officially sanctioned and its players formally considered athletes.

Yes, that is a computer gaming competition.

Yes, that is a computer gaming competition.

On its face it sounds ridiculous, but “e-sports” as they are called are actually a huge business, with competitive matches drawing thousands of spectators and tens of thousands more online, complete with commentators and analysts. Professional computer and video-game players have been around for a long time, and in recent years it has become very well organized, and more importantly, lucrative.

I personally don’t follow any sport except when the Oilers are playing, and I’m not much of a gamer, so I make no comment as to the legitimacy or validity of the offering. But with the video game industry being one of the most influential in tech and pop culture, bringing in $20 billion a year in revenue (and that was in 2008!), then why not? if golf can be a sport, why not electronic games? Indeed, this may help push it even further into the mainstream, and help schools that host similar teams to consider them the same.

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