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 (458)
  • JackR-5
    10/09/2014 - 12:26 p.m.

    Recently a college student got a scholarship to play video games. He plays in the league called league of legends where he competes competitively. Instead of Pac-Man and donkey Kong, games are now evolving into team playing games where people can predict each other's movements in seconds. While his parents he thought he was going to be a high school dropout the scholarship help him get into college for playing video games. he play video games for up to 12 hours a day failling most of his high school classes.thousands of people go to the sports stadiums to watch these people play video games for up to $1 million cash prizes. I think it is stupid that people will pay that much and watch gaming for money. Gaming is supposed to be fun not a career.

  • WV2001TacoBelll
    10/09/2014 - 01:00 p.m.

    I think it helps to attract more people to go to college I know personally that I don't want to go to college but if there were more like this one maybe I would want to go

  • RM00charlie
    10/09/2014 - 01:00 p.m.

    They will probably get more students being that video games are becoming the next big thing all the school will gain 30,000 $ in scholarship money.

  • ma2000dragonball
    10/09/2014 - 01:02 p.m.

    The advantage it has over other universities is that it lets students in these schools are given more opportunities not as a gamer, but a opportunities as a career.

  • ct2000green
    10/09/2014 - 01:03 p.m.

    Wow, this is pretty cool I honestly never would've thought that gaming would become a sort. This makes me wonder if "League of Legends" is the only game that gets you a scholarship. If not then I'm looking at a good college experience playing my ps4.

  • MintyDawg27
    10/09/2014 - 01:07 p.m.

    This is really weird, everyone likes a little video games once in a while but video game competing like a sport might replace normal sports because this is the digital age and people might find this new sport more exiting.

  • ziont-Orv
    10/09/2014 - 01:23 p.m.

    Well i myself play competitive video games alot, and I know of Major League Gaming (MLG) and know that you can play for money if you pay in betting money... sorta like gambling :| I would totally play video games for a sport, though it sounds lazy it is actually a learning experience because it improves motor skills, coordination, faster response time and even.. (depending on what game you play) a bit of history that you can take in at a young age and use it for school which i know i have. in conclusion having video games as a sport has a big advantage on other schools.

  • JennyGBlue
    10/09/2014 - 01:26 p.m.

    Video games are really fun, and yes, this is kind of a good idea, because you could get points and good grades for playing a video game, but hopefully this doesn't go to far. Because we all know what will happen if it does. Everyone will be in bad shape, and get sick and stuff. Then they will stop caring about more important things, like math.

  • ColbyNCamo
    10/09/2014 - 01:27 p.m.

    That seems like a bad idea. No offense to anyone out there but america is fat enough. If kids blow their school and all of that to sit on a couch all day play "sports" than america will be even fatter. Once again no offense to bigger people.

  • DillonSBlue
    10/09/2014 - 01:28 p.m.

    It would be amazing to go to college for playing video games, especially because school and video games are to opposite things. I have not played League of Legends before those are not the type of game I play.

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