Should Students Be Spending Class Time Learning Video Game Skills?

Universities are offering e-sports scholarships and building training facilities to attract more students

21 May 2018

Several universities recently announced they are offering e-sports programs as well as scholarships to varsity video game players. First-rate training facilities and arenas are opening on college campuses around the world.

Electronic sports involve video game competitions played by teams at stadiums before thousands of fans watching on screens and many more streaming the event from a website, like Twitch. League of Legends, Dota 2, and Overwatch are a few of the games played.

The e-sports industry has ballooned during the past decade, filling venues such as Madison Square Garden in New York City and Olympic Stadium in Beijing. The industry brought in US $1.5 billion in revenue last year, according to Dot Esports.

CLASSTIME

Ashland University, in Ohio, is offering an e-sports degree program in the upcoming semester. Specific courses have yet to be announced.

“The curriculum, coupled with more traditional college offerings, is an attempt to provide a well-rounded education supporting students interested in pursuing a professional gaming career,” according to a news release about Ashland’s program on the National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE) website.

Last May Staffordshire Business School, in England, became the first university in the United Kingdom to offer a bachelor’s degree in e-sports. The courses focus on the business and culture of e-sports—which involve developing teams, communities, and a fan base as well as organizing events.

“It is vital that the degree supports the needs of those working and recruiting to this specialist sector,” Rachel Gowers, associate dean for recruitment at the school, said in the news release. “The industry is driving the creation of new jobs, and companies are looking for people who are both entrepreneurial and tech-savvy.”

Team Vitality, an organization in France, partnered with the startup Gaming Campus to develop a curriculum solely around e-sports and gaming to give students the skills needed to break into the industry. It also offers a program in coaching, according to Dot Esports.

SCHOLARSHIPS

Robert Morris University in Chicago is the first U.S. school to offer video gaming scholarships, of up to $19,000 annually, according to the NACE. The school is among nearly 70 U.S. colleges and universities that belong to the association. They recruit players the same way they would varsity athletes, and many are eligible to receive scholarship money.

The University of Utah and the University of California, Irvine, offer players partial scholarships, and they have plans to offer full ones. 

Gone are the days when video game players practiced in dorm rooms and basements. UC Irvine opened a $250,000 e-sports arena last year with financial backing from sponsors including Riot Games, a manufacturer that organizes collegiate tournaments. The facility includes 80 computers, specialized gaming chairs, and other equipment, university officials said. Other arenas have opened on the campuses of Florida Southern College and the College of St. Joseph’s, in Vermont.

BENEFITS

Supporters of collegiate gaming say varsity teams can bring national exposure to schools at a relatively low cost.

“Compared to traditional sports programs, e-sports are more affordable,” said Michael Brooks, executive director of the NACE. “At the end of day all we’re talking about is a souped-up computer lab.”

Proponents say video games teach students strategy, teamwork, and time management, which are important skills in the workplace.

Joshua Buchanan, Ashland University’s e-sports coach, said in an interview with IndieOnline that a lot of colleges are realizing they can attract certain students with e-sports, including those who are interested in STEM careers.

This article has been corrected from an earlier version.

What are your thoughts about universities offering degrees in e-sports?

Learn More