Varsity (e-Sports) Athletes

Back at the Naval Academy, I had a friend who was on the varsity offshore sailing team.  Technically he “lettered” every year, but he refused to call himself a “varsity athlete,” because he didn’t feel he had earned the title.  Of course, we always asked him to wear his “N-star” sweater (a right reserved for varsity athletes), but he never would.

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I have no doubt that off-shore sailing requires a lot of skill, but it would probably be considered a fringe sport.  However, we have now reached a day and age where the term “sport” has become even looser.  When I went to CitySide to watch March Madness, I saw the national cornhole tournament was playing on ESPN (somehow I feel like their ratings weren’t quite as high as CBS with the basketball games).  If you want to watch people race drones against each other, there is an entire televised league.

E-Sports

But wait, there’s more! It turns out there is actually a CStarLeague that allows college students to form teams to compete with other colleges.  CStarLeague players compete in several popular games suc as Super Smash Bros, League of Legends, and OverWatch.  Players must adhere to  eligibility rules similar to NCAA athletes.  They must be full-time students and not on academic probation. Players also may only participate on one team.  However, unlike NCAA athletes, CStarLeague players compete for cash prizes.  These winnings amount to hundreds and sometimes even thousands of dollars.

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Impact

So what does all this mean for students?  I’m not inclined to make the argument that parents should start paying for their kids to receive video game lessons.  There is a Japanese business that plans to provide such a product (sorry, the website hasn’t really launched yet, so it’s just a bunch of stock photos of people playing video games). I know @oliverhowe14 may wish his parents did that, but he also realizes the risk involved.  Most people can’t make hundreds of thousands of dollars playing video games, but to be fair, the same argument can be made for kids trying to become pro-athletes.

The difference is that traditional sports are perceived differently than video games.  Football and soccer build character, instills discipline, and develops teamwork skills that can serve you for life.  All those weekends spent at baseball or wrestling tournaments may get you a college scholarship.  Video games are seen as a vice.  Video games are just a leisure activity and breed laziness and violent behavior ( @neroc1337). But maybe schools like Ashland University, which is offering scholarships for Fortnite players can change the game.

Perhaps there is a place for video games in college (outside of the dorm rooms). Although it is difficult to argue that video games offer better health benefits than sports (unless you consider the downside of injuries), maybe there are benefits for our development as individuals.  You can learn a lot about teamwork when you’re trying to defend the HQ in Call of Duty. In my Thinking Strategically simulation course, my professor often spouts how he hopes someday we will be able to have a more immersive simulation experience “like Call of Duty.”  Finally, time and dedication put in to improving a skill – even if that skill is in video games – can teach students about diligence.

Maybe there should be a “Plex” where students could hone their Fortnite skills (“Please observe a 30 minute time limit if there are others waiting”).

7 comments

  1. Jobabes121 · ·

    Bobby, wonderful post and thank you for sharing my Tweet! This post is very relevant amid the Fortnite boom we have seen for the past few months, and people in the U.S. are slowly accepting gaming as a type of sports. My take on this topic is that those who truly specialize in gaming, like pro-gamers who do this for living, should receive acknowledgement in their skills, as it does require exceptional reaction and micro-controlling skills within the games. They practice hours to train themselves and compete against other players, which is essentially like a sporting event.

    However, gaming does not bring the same value to others who just play it for “fun.” There is a fundamental difference between playing basketball where you can build teamwork skills, exercise, and sweat together and playing League of Legends where you are exposed to a toxic environment and get addicted. The clear difference is that when sports like basketball offer good takeaways such as time to exercise (which everyone needs) and interact with people in person, gaming cannot. It’s bad for your eyes, harms health, and does not enable a real-human interaction. It’s fun indeed, but most fun things do not offer great lessons or takeaways. I still believe that educational institutions should separate “esport” from existing sports but provide a space for passionate gamers to have a forum, play together, and build a community without bashing them as “nerds.” This inclusion is, in my opinion, crucial to maintain the divide and at the same time not offend anyone.

  2. Nice post. I keep forgetting to tell you that my dad went to the Naval Academy and lettered in Wrestling. I remember his N* sweater very well growing up.

  3. NeroC1337 · ·

    I have also read articles that by end of next year, (not so sure the time) there will be a eSports league like, just like NCAA, ACC, etc. They plan to have about 10 different times of games compete professionally; unfortunately, shooting game is the genre that won’t be compete in that league, that’s games like Fortnite, CSGO, Call of Duty. I think it’s because of the violent theme around shooting games. I do agree that traditional sports provide a lot more health benefits in comparison to eSports. Other than that, if you have ever watched a pro-video gamer, eSports unarguably required the same skill sets. SO I do believe that eSports will have a huge success in the future, but it needs a long adaptation time for the majority of populations.

    Although I’m a gamer myself, or because of I’m a gamer myself, I am not so keen about the idea of bring eSports to college, and coming up with a league. I think it’s still too early for people to fully accept eSports as a sport league in college. I will doubt the decision is made because the organizers recognize that gaming could be a fun, social experience that could bond friendships just like other sports, but MAKE A LOT OF MONEY. Because the current eSports scenes do make a lot more money at a much lower cost. I would think that the cost to manage a eSports team would be much lower than having a 40+ people football team. So the reason I’m against an eSports league right now is because I think it’s done much more for the sake of money, but for gaming experience itself.

  4. kikinitwithraf · ·

    E-sports is growing at an unprecedented rate! “Geeks” for lack of a better word have learned to monopolize online gaming. As a college student, who doesn’t want to sit around and get paid playing a Madden Tournament or enter/compete in a League of Legends event? Heck, even NFL owners like Robert Kraft and Jerry Jones are investing in E-Sports. That said, Im not so quick to call E-Sports a “sport.” Thats not to say you cant develop some skills like team building/relationship management, camaraderie, etc. like in baseball, football, and any other major sport. I would argue that a large portion of these participants/student are introverts so this is a channel for them to break out. And like you said @1bobbystroup, I’m not going to be first in line to pay for video game lessons!

  5. kkim312 · ·

    Technically the definition of “sport” is an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment. Whether or not people consider E-Sports an activity that involves physical exertion could be debated and I feel will be debated for years to come. But, that could be said for such events held on ESPN such as poker. It will be interesting to see if a governmental group like the NCAA will be created with this breakthrough of colleges creating teams to compete. Personally not knowing much about E-Games or video games at all, I do not seek out news about the topic or am involved with any kind of communication regarding video games. With that said, I have noticed an increase on the matter.

  6. kylepdonley · ·

    I visited Seattle a few years back and went to Millennium Park where the Space Needles and lots of famous attractions are held. After arriving we noticed hordes of people walking around with the same T-shirts and backpacks and couldn’t figure out why it was so insane. Turns out it was the DOTA 2 world championships. The cash prize was over $2MM and there were thousands of people there to see this with tents, big screens, concessions, music, cosplayers – the works! These games can be extremely mentally demanding, something that I can attest to as I used to play DOTA 2, and it is understandably hard to fathom for people who have never tried them. They are incredibly hard and these people operate on a level that is unbelievable to witness. Although I am not a fan of watching people game, I do respect the talent and hard work these people put in. I think calling it a sport is perfectly reasonable.

  7. graceglambrecht · ·

    Think this has bigger implications for college sports and what constitutes as a sport overall, especially with eligibility rules and requirements. Typically NCAA athletes are not allowed to accept any money or prizes if they win events, which is a common issue specifically in golf for amateur status. Think it will be interesting to see how schools impliment ESports into their “sporting” areas and if the rules begin to change as ESports take hold, become more popular, and continue to have large prizes/money winnings available to players. There was a great article about this somewhere that I need to find that discusses more deeply how ESports could potentially affect the college sports landscapes.
    I think your point about what the sport actually teaches and implies about a persons character is also a really interesting take on esports. You loose a bit of a team aspect when u are behind a screen playing on your own, but you could make that argument for those playing tennis or golf of fencing. This is a topic that will have quite a bit of debate for the years to come.

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