So esports is really becoming a thing. That’s the takeaway from Robert Morris University Illinois in Chicago’s announcement that they would be offering scholarships to top League of Legends players, with the first players kicking off tournament play in September.
Riot’s massive MOBA joins Starcraft II, Dota 2 and Hearthstone: Heroes of WarCraft as part of the Collegiate Star League, a collection of intercollegiate clubs offering bracket-style tournaments across 103 schools across the country.
IGN interviewed RMU’s associate athletic director, Kurt Melcher, who explained why the school would start offering scholarships to esports athletes (players? gamers?): “We give scholarships for a variety of different interests, along with traditional sports like football, basketball, soccer. So we thought, ‘Why wouldn’t we give scholarships for this?'”
Why wouldn’t they, indeed? Esports have the numbers to justify the attention: a rough statistic from last year suggested that there were somewhere around 400 million people playing multiplayer titles each year. And between Twitch streaming and Riot’s own work packing stadiums for League of Legends tournaments, there’s definitely some kind of career in this for gamers.
I’m still unsure exactly what that is, though: the lives of most multiplayer titles is pretty short, meaning that careers would be measured in releases, not seasons*, and the structure for a pro career stills pretty loose (although teams are getting managers and sponsorship). What will life look like for a 30-year-old LoL player?
*I’m thinking of MOBAs and most shooters. Fighting games are a different story, with many on the competitive circuit picking a game and sticking with it for years.