College recognizes video games as varsity sport Dressed as Champions from the League of Legends online video game, Melanie Delia (L) as Lulu, Justin LaTorre (C) as Ezreal, Jason Williams as Ashe, pose at the 45th annual Comic-Con in San Diego, California (- AFP / Getty Images)
College recognizes video games as varsity sport
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As a teenager, in his bedroom illuminated by the glow of his laptop, Youngbin Chung became addicted to video games. Ten-hours-a-day addicted.

His grades tanked. His parents fretted.

A few years later, the 20-year-old from the San Francisco area leads a team of headset-wearing players into virtual battle in a darkened room at a small private university in Chicago. He's studying computer networking on a nearly $15,000-a-year athletic scholarship for playing League of Legends. It's the very game that once jeopardized his high school diploma.

"I never thought in my life I'm going to get a scholarship playing a game," said Chung. He is one of 35 students attending Robert Morris University on the school's first-in-America video game scholarship.

Once regarded as anti-social slackers or nerds, gamers have become stars. The video gaming is called esports. In professional leagues, they compete for millions of dollars in prizes. They can pull in six-figure incomes. They pack thousands into sports stadiums around the world.

Games have evolved from the days of Pac-Man and Donkey Kong. Today they involve multiple players communicating with each other in teams. The squads plot strategy, predict opponents' moves and react in milliseconds.

Robert Morris has about 3,000 students. School officials believe that spending money to recruit these students will enrich campus life and add to its ranks of high-achieving graduates.

"It's coming. It's coming big time," Associate Athletic Director Kurt Melcher said of the esports trend.

Hundreds of colleges and universities have esports clubs, but Robert Morris is the first to recognize it as a varsity sport. It's all to play a single video game, League of Legends. Teams of five use keyboards and mouses to control mythical fighters that battle in a science fiction-like setting.

The first practices started last month in a $100,000 classroom. It's fitted with an expansive video screen, computers and eye-dazzling gaming paraphernalia.

The Robert Morris Eagles will play teams in two leagues that include Harvard and MIT. The goal is to make it to the League of Legends North American Collegiate Championship. Members of the first-place team take home $30,000 each in scholarships.

Melcher of Robert Morris dreamed up the scholarship idea while searching online for the video games he used to play. The university already has scholarships for everything from bowling to dressing as the mascot.

Some 27 million people play League of Legends each day, according to developer Riot Games Inc.

This year's professional championship is Oct. 19 in Seoul at the stadium South Korea built to host the 2002 soccer World Cup. The 45,000 seats are expected to sell out. The top team will take home $1 million.

Critical thinking challenge: What advantage does Robert Morris University gain over other schools by making video games a varsity sport?

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COMMENTS (452)
  • SD2000green
    10/09/2014 - 08:36 a.m.

    More people play video games so when it's made into a varsity sport where you can compete for money and such, it gives more people a chance to enroll in their college and represent them in esports.

  • RS2000RED
    10/09/2014 - 08:40 a.m.

    The advantage they gain is that since video games are becoming more popular, so it will help to bring more people tot eh school. Now, I am a gamer and I know the League of Legends is VERY popular, I personally dont find it fun, however millions of people do.

  • Jordancool123
    10/09/2014 - 09:35 a.m.

    This is awesome! Getting a scholarship for something I do 4-5 hours a day. This is a awesome thing for the people who want to make video games too. This is a scholarship made for the nerds of this school.

  • Qu'Naya
    10/09/2014 - 09:49 a.m.

    If I played video games I would definitely go to a college like this. Having scholarships for things like video games must attract various amounts of attention.

  • JadeWb2
    10/09/2014 - 10:07 a.m.

    I believe this new sports program is a wonderful idea, and a great way to make the average gamer (like Myself) feel special. Who knows maybe some day the new competitive gaming esport will be as big as American football. All the people in the world that play video games now have something to strive for.

  • MGregory-Sti
    10/09/2014 - 10:09 a.m.

    i think its cool that robert morris is doing that to kids because teenagagers would be happy if they got the privige to get that

  • SeanD-Cal
    10/09/2014 - 11:43 a.m.

    Playing video games as a sport sounds really fun. Although, I'm not so sure i can see it as a sport. A whole club just for video games isn't very sporty but i guess since I love video game myself, I'm not going to hate on it. ;{)

  • DulcineaC-Cal
    10/09/2014 - 11:44 a.m.

    I think that the people that spend their time playing video games should get out more draw be more artistic and should do more with their life be more adventurous. Dulci C-Call

  • AnnaC-Cal
    10/09/2014 - 11:45 a.m.

    Oh my who new that video games were helpful!! My parents barley let me play video games because they want me to study foe tests.I like playing some games but not as much as that guy did.

  • EthanI-5
    10/09/2014 - 12:15 p.m.

    Can you get a scholarship for playing a video game? Well you can get a scholar ship nearly $15,000 per year. league of legends is the new game that you can get a scholar ship for. the championships for this game is worth $1million. this is good because nerds can get a scholarship easier.

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