In some ways, they’re like typical college athletes. They’re on varsity teams. They train for hours between classes. Some get hefty scholarships. But instead of playing sports, they’re playing video games.
On college campuses, varsity gaming teams with all the trappings of sports teams are becoming increasingly common as schools tap into the rising popularity of competitive gaming. After initially keeping its distance, even the NCAA is now considering whether it should play a role.
Fifty U.S. colleges have established varsity gaming teams over the past three years, often offering at least partial scholarships and backed by coaches and game analysts, much like any other college team.
“We’re talking to at least three or four new schools every single day. We did not expect this type of reaction,” said Michael Brooks, executive director of the National Association of Collegiate eSports, a group that represents more than 40 schools with varsity gaming teams. “It caught us a little off guard.”
Competitive gaming, often called esports, has become a booming entertainment industry over the past decade, with flashy professional events that fill sports arenas and draw millions of online viewers.
The biggest tournaments offer prize pools upward of $20 million, attracting elite gamers who wage battle in popular video games such as “League of Legends” and “Overwatch.”
Until recently, most colleges were slow to meet demand for a collegiate…