Rising eSport popularity warrants consideration of further support
Whether you agree with it or not, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that the world of competitive gaming (also known as eSports) is growing in popularity. With competitive gamer and popular Fortnite livestreamer Tyler “Ninja” Blevins securing his place as the first professional gamer on the cover of ESPN Magazine this past week, there’s a growing market both for gaming as a source of entertainment, and also as competition.
But when looking at the lives of many competitive gamers, many recite the same lines about either dropping out of college or not using their degree while pursuing their dreams of gaming. While this issue seemed to be just a part of the job for gamers with their sights set on eSports, universities are instrumental in not only encouraging budding competitive gamers to pair education with competition, but supporting this up-and-coming scene.
Close to home, University of Michigan (Arbor eSports) and Michigan State (eSports Student Association) both have budding eSports clubs which compete at a competitive level. With both only having been around for a few years, the two organizations are participating in national competitions against other minor league eSports teams. In short, even at the college level, eSports clubs are much more than localized LAN tournaments and online discussion.
While like most clubs, these organizations seem mostly student-run, it begs the same question that eSports as a whole has been asked for years: are these gamers considered athletes in any sense? Because the question is far from being answered in many cases, we need to more simply look into how much support should eSport organizations receive from their schools.
Grand Valley’s very own GVSU eSports community was welcomed as an official club this month, which gives GVSU the perfect opportunity to support competitive gaming.
One notable aspect of supporting the eSports community at GVSU is because of its popularity. While we’re incredibly fortunate to have a variety of talented sports teams, supporting eSports gives GVSU another front to be stay competitive on.
But for those who aren’t interested in competing themselves, eSports is incredibly spectator friendly. During last year’s League of Legends world championship, the game’s viewership peaked at 57.6 million unique viewers. The 2017 Oscars only had 32.9 million.
The excitement during a football home game is unique and exhilarating, but the thrill of tailgating and cheering with the marching band isn’t for everyone. If you’ve seen any eSport event, you’ll know that the commentators, venues and teams try to make each game as exciting and professional as possible. Best yet, there’s a unique energy between the gamers, crowd and commentary that is hard not to support.
Between the current talent within GVSU eSports and potential future talent through university support, the university could be a local powerhouse. Current GVSU eSports members have played with or against professional gamers in the past or have been semi-pro themselves. National competitions are pinning Division I schools against relative underdogs, with gamers from small schools going toe to toe with giants.
With that said, GVSU has a track record of being incredibly supportive of new clubs and organizations, but I encourage the university to keep a special eye on the club. While seeing Laker jerseys on competitive gamers may seem foreign to some, it would be GVSU’s opportunity to make a mark on a scene that’s popularity is rising and full of potential.