Colleges Are Beginning to Fully Embrace Gaming

While it misses the mark by quite some way, the traditional stereotype of a gamer is a college student smashing away at a keyboard in a dorm room during the small hours of the morning. 

This is despite the fact that, until recently, it was not unheard of for a college to block many forms of online gaming on its network. 

Contrary to what you might think, this usually isn’t about some sort of moral objection to gaming and is more to do with preserving the bandwidth of the college’s network and external internet connections. 

But as bandwidth has expanded, there has been less need to do this and more students are free to enjoy their games with friends and strangers online. 

At the same time, colleges are starting to more fully embrace gaming. It’s gone from being seen as simply a pastime for blowing off some steam in between studying to an academic subject and a form of collegiate competition. 

Not an Entirely New Phenomenon

Of course, gaming at college is by no means new. The first ever video game was created by computer engineers at MIT. Titled Spacewar!, the game used the college’s DEC PDP-1 minicomputer to allow two players to control spacecraft around a gravity well. They would have to shoot at each other, accounting for the fact that the physics changed as they got closer to the well. It was so popular that there was even a Spacewar! tournament that would be described as an esport today.

Similarly, the MIT Blackjack Team was made up of students, professors, and other academics at both MIT and other colleges. They spent decades learning and implementing the strategy of card counting in casinos around the world. A film depicting their story, known as 21 (2008) helped to increase demand for online blackjack, leading to sites like Betway creating a wide range of different variants to cater to different types of players.

However, the current trend in college gaming runs much deeper than either of these. 

College Esports

Esports are competitions that use video games as their medium. They work similar to more traditional physical sports, with either individuals or teams taking part, usually in either a league or tournament format. 

Esports have become big business in recent years, following the same model as physical sports by attracting sponsors, signing broadcast deals, and selling tickets to fans who want to watch games. 

The most successful athletes are also becoming celebrities, with some attracting millions of followers.

It was, therefore, only a matter of time before colleges and universities got involved in esports by adding them to their sports programs. 

We can see examples of this on either side of the Atlantic with colleges on both continents operating varsity esports teams, including big names like Boise, MIT, and Texas A&M. 

These allow students to gain important experience and exposure to help them turn pro after they graduate. 

Photo by Alex Haney on Unsplash

Esports Courses

It’s not just about playing games professionally either. Colleges are also creating courses that can help support the esports industry in the longer term. 

To thrive, esports need more than just great players. Teams need managers, leagues need commissioners, and all key entities need marketing departments to help promote them and sales teams to sell sponsorship deals. 

On top of that, video games need to be created in the first place, so it’s important for a continual stream of developers to enter the workplace each year. 

Over in the UK, there are now esports courses on offer at many educational institutions. This includes vocational qualifications and bachelor’s degrees. Nottingham Trent University has a course in esports production while the University of Portsmouth allows its students to graduate with a degree in Esports Coaching and Performance. 

The University of Chichester even signed a former esports player to join its teaching staff so that its students could get the best possible insight into the industry. 

We can, therefore, see that colleges gaming at all levels. While it is a way off yet, we could begin to see parity with traditional sports in the future. 

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