When you think about sports, the usual suspects like football, soccer, basketball, and even ping-pong are sure to pop into your head of before eSports. A lot of people don’t even know that eSports exist, let alone take it seriously for the people who do know about it. But with their rising popularity and the spread of technology in our everyday lives, eSports are set to take over the world—and college campuses. So let’s take a minute to learn more about eSports.
What are eSports?
eSports, or electronic sports, is just a fancy and inclusive name for competitive video gaming. Although it’s been around as long as video games have, eSports didn’t take off until the ’90s, when leagues and tournaments exploded onto the scene. eSports is really an umbrella term; there are a limitless variety of games to play and tournaments to attend, making this activity accessible to everyone.
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How popular are eSports?
As of 2020, eSports are more popular than ever. League of Legends, a multiplayer battle arena game and one of the longest-running popular eSports game, has roughly 115 million users as of this year, with the US, Turkey, Brazil, Germany, and Russia as the top countries for daily users. In fact in 2019, more than 100 million views tuned in to watch the League of Legends World Championship, cementing it as the most popular eSport. In 2020, the championship was hosted in Shanghai, China and consisted mainly of digital viewership due to the coronavirus pandemic. eSports are so popular now with millennials and gen z favoring video games to watching traditional major league sports that in 2018, Thursday Night Football was beat in viewers by the opening day of the Overwatch League series, with an average of 280,000 viewers a minute.
What can you play?
The easy answer is just about anything; however, some games are more popular than others and have a pretty big place in eSports already, so those are typically the games you’ll want to aim for to be taken seriously on your college campus. Popular games options besides League of Legends include:
- Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
- Call of Duty
- Dota 2
- Rocket League
If your college already has an eSports team, you’re in luck because joining the team will be easy. If you want to encourage your school to let you start an eSports team, considering these popular options would be your best bet to getting the support you need to pursue it.
How do you watch games?
Thanks to Twitch, a live-streaming platform for gamers and other popular online content, watching competitive gaming is a breeze. All you have to do is find a game or player you like and tune in. Anyone can broadcast their game, so games happen nonstop—especially with many professional gamers streaming nearly 24 hours day, 7 days a week. Places like YouTube and HLTV also stream live games, and ESPN airs some of the biggest events, like League of Legends, on ESPN2 and the ESPN app.
Related: Colleges for Students Interested in Gaming
What are eSports tournaments, and how much can you win?
Professional eSports tournaments work like other sport tournaments: teams or single players move from one event to the next trying to outsmart and beat their opponents in an attempt to reach the final championship games. Two of the largest tournaments are The International for Dota 2 and the League of Legends World Championship. In 2020, The International broke records with a staggering $40 million awarded in prize money over the course of the championship games. The next highest prize pool for eSports goes to the Fortnite World Cup Finals for both solos and duos matches, which in 2019 reached over $15 million in prize money (nothing to balk at but certainly not $40 million).
What do eSports have to do with college?
eSports are booming, and colleges have noticed. Schools like Maryville University of Saint Louis and Miami University are two of the most well-known schools to have started varsity eSports teams and are among about 175 colleges that participate. In the same manner, more and more schools are offering eSports scholarships. Harrisburg University of Science and Technology made history in 2018 by offering full-ride scholarships to its entire 16-player roster, and this trend is sure to continue at other universities. Scholarships are widely available, and students are often recruited to play for varsity eSports teams the same way as other student-athletes. And again, if your school or school of interest doesn’t already have an eSports team, there’s always a chance they may add one if there’s enough interest! It may be extra work, but it could be worth it if competitive gaming is something you’re passionate about.
Related: 5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Become a College Athlete
eSports offers a unique opportunity to students who love gaming and even students who don’t. Becoming involved in eSports can open you up to endless possibilities as the competitive video games garner more and more attention and respect—and even if you stay away from competitions, watching a game every now and then certainly is never boring.
If you’re really passionate about gaming, use our College Search tool to find a college with an eSports team or maybe even a major in Video Game Design!