Ever since video games entered the arena of competitive play, whether it was via online connection or local play, gamers across the world have dreamed of the moment that eSports would be seen on the same stage as major sports like football, baseball, and basketball. There were moments in the history of eSports where that vision was almost realized, but sadly we aren’t quite there yet.

I am not saying that eSports aren’t doing well. MLG is as big as it has ever been, and there are countless online leagues for many different games. The sport is out there and it is growing, but there is an inherent roadblock present that hinders eSports from reaching the level of football or any other sport: a defined path to success.

mlg

For aspiring sports stars, the way to success is easily followed. Start playing your sport at a young age, continue through high school where, hopefully, you will get a scholarship to college to play your sport, play well in college, and hope to get drafted by a professional team. This has been the tried and true formula for athletes for years, and it is one of the best formulas to follow. This path not only requires excellence in sports, it also requires an almost equal level of excellence in education.

Until recently, eSports did not have a defined path to success. Gamers had to play their favorite game night and day, get very good at it, and hope to be noticed by a top flight team. Now, a defined path is beginning to appear. It was recently revealed that Robert Morris University will begin awarding scholarships to high performing League of Legends players that are currently attending high school, and these incoming players will be recognized as Varsity athletes, just like other major sports athletes. Here’s a quote from the RMU’s current head soccer coach, Kurt Melcher, on the new addition of League of Legends as a varsity sport, “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?’”

The new Robert Morris University varsity LoL team will compete in the Collegiate Star League against teams from Harvard, Arizona State University, and over 100 more universities. The CSL does not just cater to LoL players, it also has active leagues for Starcraft II, Dota 2, and Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft. For those acquainted with college sports, you can look at the CSL as a fledgling NCAA.

As we know, a major change in the landscape of anything takes a first step, and Robert Morris University has taken that first step for everyone. If other universities follow suit, and I’m sure they will, we will see an absolute explosion in the popularity and commercialization of eSports. This will not only affect the players, it will also affect the parents of players. Instead of viewing gaming as a stupid hobby, they will view it as a path to success, much like other sports.

Now that the immediate future of eSports is starting to come in clearly, let’s look a little further into the future. Once collegiate eSports becomes accepted as a varsity sport across the nation, players will begin thinking about the next step. For some of those players, a career in their field of choice is the next step, but for others, they will want to continue to pursue eSports as a career. So in comes the next logical step, a professional eSports draft.

This was attempted in the past by the Championship Gaming Series in 2007. The draft consisted of professional players from leagues like CEVO and CAL, and the main attraction was Counter Strike: Source. Players were drafted to teams that represented different cities and states, ie: The San Francisco Optx, Carolina Core, and New York 3D, much like professional athletes are drafted today. The players signed contracts upon being drafted and could also be traded to other teams. It was set up exactly like any other sport. The CGS was televised on DirectTV, but unfortunately after only 2 full seasons, culminating with the international CSS championship featuring the San Francisco Optx vs the Birmingham Salvo of England, the league dissolved. As a competitive Counter Strike: Source player at the time, I can say from experience that the CGS gave hope to all those who played the game. We could make a career out of the game we loved, just like football or baseball players could. This was also true for the other games that were played in the CGS, like Dead or Alive.

championship gaming series

Unfortunately the CGS was ahead of its time, but the time for professional competitive eSports is fast approaching. The question is, who will be the one to capitalize on it? MLG is already set up as the biggest and most successful eSports league in the land, but with new opportunities opening, MLG could lose its standing if it doesn’t act quickly.

We are approaching a very important juncture in the future of competitive gaming. If this experiment that Robert Morris University is conducting becomes a huge success, it could mean that professional eSports could be seen on televisions across the world within 4 years.

Currently, the Superbowl is the most watched sports event every year. In the future, we may be able to say that the world championship of Starcraft or League of Legends has surpassed even the Superbowl. Instead of wearing New Orleans Saints or Dallas Cowboys apparel, we could see people wearing the emblem of their local Counter Strike or Halo team on a cap or t-shirt. The future of eSports is as bright as it has ever been and it rests in the hands of our future college attendees.

There is only one piece of advice I would like to give to all the students accepting scholarships to Robert Morris University for League of Legends this year; don’t take this opportunity for granted. You are the pioneers of the future of eSports. The success or failure of this experiment rests on your shoulders, so do your best in both school and gaming. Other than that, GLHF!

About The Author

Nick C
COO/Podcast Host

I’m Nick, a proud nerd and gamer. I rock my Star Wars tattoos like I’m a real Jedi, and I hope I will be making games first and playing them second in the future!