College recognizes video games as varsity sport
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, 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 in what are now called esports. In professional leagues, they compete for millions of dollars in prizes and some 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 into something much more complex. They involve multiple players that communicate with each other in teams, plot strategy, predict opponents' moves and react in milliseconds.

Robert Morris, which has about 3,000 students, believes those are not so different from the skills one uses on a football field or a basketball court. Spending money to recruit these students, too, 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 and what he's sure is its looming recognition by a bigger chunk of the collegiate sports world.

Hundreds of other colleges and universities have esports clubs, but Robert Morris are for a single video game, League of Legends. Teams of five on five use keyboards and mouses to control mythical fighters battling it out in a science fiction-like setting.

The first practices started last month in a $100,000 classroom outfitted 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, with hopes of making it to the League of Legends North American Collegiate Championship. Members of the first-place team take home $30,000 each in scholarships.

Melcher 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.

The traditional sports world is still trying to figure out what to make of the phenomenon.

ESPN has dabbled in esports coverage, but network President John Skipper recently declared it a non-sport.

"It's not a sport," he said. "It's a competition, right? I mean, chess is a competition, and checkers is a competition. ... I'm mostly interested in doing real sports."

Still, he added, "You can't really ignore it."

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

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  • sl2000soccer
    10/09/2014 - 08:41 a.m.

    I think the advantage that Robert Morris University gains over other schools by making video games a varsity sport is more popularity because a lot of students would rather play league of legends then play real sports and when they see there is a million dollar prize for playing video games they will want to join also.

  • r2000soccer
    10/09/2014 - 08:42 a.m.

    the advantage of this game is you will get scholarship and as a reward they will give million dollars if you compete someone I want to go there but I don't know what age I need to go there

  • Quentin321
    10/09/2014 - 09:38 a.m.

    This esport is a pretty cool idea. I never thought you could get a scholarship out of playing video games. I've actually have play league of legends but I didn't know it was that popular.

  • christophert20
    10/09/2014 - 09:43 a.m.

    That is crazy why would there be a universirty just for video games some might think it is cool but not me i want to go to a collage that makes me learn and use my brain because4 i want to play collage football and if i get into the nfl I wont to have a fall back plan just in case i get hurt so that is why i wouldnt wont a video game collage.

  • GMauricio-Sti
    10/09/2014 - 09:57 a.m.

    Wow! That's really cool they give scholarships for people that play games. I think that really cool because I think your should love what you do I would love that job.

  • raye-Koc
    10/09/2014 - 10:10 a.m.

    While video games can help develop hand-eye coordination and other skills that real sports can, I don't think it should be an official sport. It's just not on the level of traditional sports in the difficulty level, I find it hard to believe I can now play varsity sports from my couch.

  • patrickellis
    10/09/2014 - 10:39 a.m.

    A teenager adicted to video games lead a vertual team to battel.Once called slackers or nerds have become stars in what is known as esports.

  • jaimel01
    10/09/2014 - 12:43 p.m.

    If I could get a scholorship for gaming that would be amazing because I'm a pretty good gamer . But social wise i would not because if your loved one asked you what you do for your career your going to tell them "I play video games for a living" Their not going to be happy about that .

  • roberth32
    10/09/2014 - 12:44 p.m.

    this story is abotu kids who play video games and get scollerships from collges and when thes kids when in highschool thes games that they are now going to collge for once was almost the reason for them not getting there higschool daploma because all they wanted to do was play video games for hours on end

  • alexam7
    10/09/2014 - 12:49 p.m.

    I think this is really really cool I'm a big gamer so i would probably do this. Some people aren't good at studying but are really good at playing video games so i think its good they are giving scholar ships.

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