The Video Game Scholarship

Well, finally this happened. There’s now an academic scholarship in that thing you spent your afternoons doing instead of homework.

According to an Associated Press article, we now have scholarships for video games:

Once regarded as anti-social slackers or nerds in a basement, gamers have become megastars in what are now called esports. In professional leagues, they compete for millions of dollars in prizes and pull in six-figure incomes for vanquishing their enemies in what have become huge spectator events packing tens of thousands into sports stadiums around the world.

Robert Morris, a… university with about 3,000 students, believes those are not so different from the skills one uses on a football field or a basketball court and that spending money to recruit these students, too, will enrich campus life and add to its ranks of high-achieving graduates.

“Enrich campus life.” Come on, everyone knows the gamers only go outside to smoke cigarettes or pick up pizza delivery. I’m kidding. Sort of.

VideoGameAthlete

Hundreds of other colleges and universities have esports clubs, but Robert Morris is the first to recognize it as a varsity sport under its athletic department. The scholarships, which cover up to half off tuition and half off room and board (worth a total of $19,000 in a typical three-quarter academic year) are for a single game, League of Legends, in which teams of five on five use keyboards and mouses to control mythical fighters battling it out in a science fiction-like setting.

This seems like a rather creative use of the word “sport,” but whatever works for Robert Morris I guess.

The idea of video games being a part of college is not entirely new. Certainly the idea of going to college to “study” video games has been around for years at for-profit colleges, suggesting to kids that they might be able to get lucrative jobs in video gaming, which they mostly can’t.

But this is a little different.

Note the in the real world there are very much people who manage to get pretty stable jobs armed largely with video game skills. The tech startups of the world are full of gamers who grew up and then kids and credit card debt and needed to get a job with health care and a salary enough to afford car payments. These are the people who do quality assurance for those companies that make your apps. They also often work in tech support for electronics companies or other large corporations. But these people mostly didn’t go to college at all, or they went only briefly.

It’s nice to get a scholarship in video games, but if your career ambitions are relatively limited it turns out you can already get a job with your skills in video games, seriously.

Also are these really the sort of people we want to attract to college? We’ve had enough trouble with the academic progress of real athletes in American higher education. Do we really need to encourage more people to go to college who don’t like school at all?

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer