“There isn’t much happening at all with Esports at UNO,” even though the future of video games is bright and only getting brighter, said Adam Lafond, a cofounder of UNO’s Esports club.
In the past two years alone, a handful of the top-grossing movies such as “Ready Player One” and “Jumanji” had video games central to their premises. The online streamer known as “Ninja” shattered viewership records when he played Fortnite with the rapper Drake, garnering 621,603 live viewers at one time.
On the competitive side, online gaming tournaments are offering larger and larger prize pools. For instance, the 2017 international Dota 2 tournament had a prize pool of over $24 million, according to Esportsearnings.com. On top of that, top-tier players can earn thousands of dollars in a single day from sponsorships, ad revenue and viewer donations.
Researchers estimate that competitive gaming will be a $1.5 billion industry by 2020, according to Techinsider.com. It’s no wonder many universities are rushing to establish themselves as desirable destinations for competitive gamers. In fact, more colleges are actively recruiting and offering scholarships to such prospects.
Midland University, for example, has about eight players on $14,000 per year scholarships, said Tony Blessie, a Midland admissions counselor.
“Those kids are serious competitors,” Blessie said. “They’re not just here for fun and games,” he added, explaining how such players have daily practices and academic requirements like traditional athletes. Blessie also said the university plans to expand its Esports program.
UNO is yet to capitalize on this evermore lucrative industry, though. There are no scholarships or recruitment efforts made for competitive gamers, said Jean Phillips of the Office of Financial Support and Scholarships. Having not heard of any such scholarships or programs in the works, Phillips isn’t sure if this is in the future for UNO.