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.