Local News

'Esports' offer opportunity to earn scholarship money by playing video games

Posted January 2, 2018 6:19 p.m. EST
Updated January 2, 2018 6:55 p.m. EST

— "Electronic sports" or "Esports" are multi-player video games that involve strategy and teamwork. Esports are becoming so mainstream that most colleges now have teams and some schools are even offering scholarships.

"Pretty much every video game that is played at a competitive level just gets coined the name Esports," said Stephen Downhower, who is the coach and a player on North Carolina State University's top Esports team, "Prime."

Most college teams compete using the game “League of Legends,” which requires a lot of time and practice.

"Some people just have fast reaction time and are able to develop this mechanical ability to play the game really well," said Downhower.

NC State's "Prime" team is getting ready for the College “League of Legends” Tournament at the end of the month. They prepare much like a regular sports team would prepare.

"Every Friday, we just kind of look back on the week," said Downhower.

"We will have scouting documents for other teams that are 15 or 20 pages long just prepping and strategizing for the other team and how we are going to play," said NC State Esports player Tyler Deaton.

The preparation earned the team $28,000 worth of scholarship money last year and they are hoping to earn even more this year.

"I don't know if I got the same support in high school for playing video games until I got to college and started earning money,” said Downhower.

His parents agree. They watch the team’s games on the online livestream.

"There is an awful lot of planning and strategy involved,” said Jim Downhower, Stephen’s dad. “It's not just playing a game."

The Big Ten is the first sports league to recognize Eports as a sport. 10 of the league’s 12 teams participated in a season in 2017 and awarded $5,000 scholarships to each player.

"It definitely raised my expectations for what to see in the future of Esports at the collegiate level,” said Downhower.

Most of the schools that offer scholarships for Esports are in the north, midwest and the west. NC State is hoping this trend makes its way to the southeast at some point.