Tag Archives: esports

University of California, Irvine, becomes leader in eSports

UCI LoL arena

My employer, the University of California, Irvine, has become the first university to open an eSports arena, which is really just a big room with a bunch of high-end PCs in it for networked game play, and have a top-ranked League of Legends team that will be awarded scholarships for their participation.

Other colleges and universities have had school-sponsored eSports teams before; Robert Morris University did so back in 2014, and others followed suit, however the arena is what sets us apart. A dedicated gaming facility created with the blessings and support of League of Legends developers Riot Games and machines supplied by boutique PC source iBuyPower (terrible website design trigger warning).

The arena can also be used by students who just want to do some gaming. And because we’re a university, there will be many, many opportunities for game-based research, something my own department does from many perspectives.

The official opening will be on Friday, September 23rd, and they are expecting about 1000 people. I’ve been in that room and that area of campus, and that would be quite the crowd, but it speaks highly of what they’re doing and what they’ve already accomplished.

Professional gaming is getting big

You know that guy who spends (or nowadays, more likely spent) his life playing World of Warcraft or something similar? And how you’d always say things like “You need to go outside! You need to get exercise! You need to take a shower and get a real job!”

Well, they may be able to do that last thing without having to do any of the others. It turns out professional gaming is growing, and not just growing but selling out stadiums and attracting major sponsors like Coca-Cola and Intel (of course), more spectators than some professional sports, and dealing big, BIG money including an $11 million prize pool. Although that’s the biggest ever for a tournament of this type, it hasn’t taken too long to get there, it came mainly form donations, and the money just keeps getting bigger (the linked article actually shows the growth of the prize pool over time). In fact, the big tournament is so big it’s being held at none other than Madison Square Gardens. Of course, like everything that suddenly becomes popular, the bad people come out of the woodwork as well.

View from the stage

View of a tournament from the stage

Honestly, we’re just catching up. In South Korea for example, professional gaming has been a staple for years, as popular as any other sport. They were the first to organize e-sports under the now-defunct World Cyber Games moniker, however the sport itself didn’t die.

Nowadays, the common game to test your abilities is Defense of the Ancients, colloquially, and incorrectly known as “Dota 2,” and League of Legends, correctly acronymed to “LoL,” although Starcraft is still very popular as well, albeit moreso in other countries.

I wrote earlier in the year about athletic scholarships for gamers being offered at Robert Morris University, with all the privileges thereto, including 50 percent tuition reimbursement, leave from class for tournaments, tutors, etc. So not only are there professional gamers, there are now even collegiate varsity gamers that could become professional later on.

It’s still a good idea to go outside, and stay there for a while. Get some fresh air, exercise, sun, and interact with the world. But if your kids occasionally stay inside all day playing games, well, there may be $11 million in it for them.



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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