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Playing Video Games Now a College Varsity Sport

I wrote a previous post about eSports. Now it is being recognized as a legitimate sport by Robert Morris University in Illinois. The university is offering hefty scholarships for players of one video game in particular, League of Legends, which is the most popular game for organized video game team competitions, known as eSports. The school will offer the scholarships as part of their new varsity eSports program.

The school says it wants to give credit to those with a competitive spirit who don’t necessarily want to play traditional sports such as basketball or football. Associate Athletic Director Kurt Melcher, who will be in charge of the school’s varsity eSports program, said League of Legends is a competitive game that demands team strategy and mental prowess, so offering scholarships will attract the same types of committed students who are drawn by scholarships for traditional physical sports.

Robert Morris’ team will compete in the already well-establish Collegiate Star League, a collection of 103 institutions including schools from Harvard to ASU who compete against each other in eSports matches. But the RMU team is the only one considered “Varsity,” and an official part of the school’s sports program. There are currently 27 million daily and 67 million monthly League of Legend players. In 2013, the video game produced $624 million in revenues.

The US government now recognizes League of Legend players as professional athletes who can be awarded work visas to come to the US to play.

So now not only is digital eSports a popular spectator sport – a League of Legends championship sold out the Staples Center in LA last October and was watched online by 32 million – but digital has crossed over into popular college sports to compete with the physical, including popular college basketball and football.

This is just one more example of how the digital world is disrupting traditional entertainment, and now sports. Not only is pure digital displacing the physical and real world versions, but we are also seeing a convergence of digital and real world experiences creating new forms of competition.

About Randy White

Randy White is CEO and co-founder of the White Hutchinson Leisure & Learning Group. The 26-year-old company, with offices in Kansas City, Missouri and Doha, Qatar in the Middle East, has worked for over 500 clients in 33 countries in North and Latin America, Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. Projects the company has produced have won sixteen 1st place awards. Randy is considered to be one of the world’s foremost authorities on feasibility, brand development, design and production of entertainment, eatertainment, edutainment, play and leisure facilities. Randy was featured on the Food Network’s Unwrapped television show as an eatertainment expert, quoted as an entertainment/edutainment center expert in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, New York Times and Time magazine and received recognition for family-friendly designs by Pizza Today magazine. One of the company’s projects was featured as an example of an edutainment project in the book The Experience Economy. Numerous national newspapers have interviewed him as an expert on shopping center and mall entertainment and retail-tainment. Randy is a graduate of New York University. Prior to repositioning the company in 1989 to work exclusively in the leisure and learning industry, White Hutchinson was active in the retail/commercial real estate industry as a real estate consultancy specializing in workouts/turnarounds of commercial projects. In the late 1960s to early 1980s, Randy managed a diversified real estate development company that developed, owned and managed over 2.0 million square feet of shopping centers and mixed-use projects and 2,000 acres of residential subdivisions. Randy holds the designations of CSM (Certified Shopping Center Manager) and Certified Retail Property Executive (CRX) from the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC). Randy is also a partner in Eatertainment Venues 4.0, a company that is developing eatertainment venues, and a co-Regent and presenter at the 14-year-old Foundations Entertainment University, a 3-day long training seminar for the family entertainment center industry. He has authored over 100 articles that have been published in leading entertainment/leisure and early childhood education industry magazines and journals and has been a featured speaker at conventions of over 20 different leisure trade groups. Randy is the editor of his company's Leisure eNewsletter, has a blog and tweets.
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