Image courtesy of Esports Business Summit

Murray State is joining the growing number of colleges offering scholarships for their esports athletes. While almost every school has a gaming or esports club, it’s not quite as common for schools to offer a scholarship. That said, it’s high time we stop treating college esports like a new exhibit at the zoo.

For too long, we’ve all just been happy to have attention paid to our space. We’ve argued that it’s validation. While it is nice to be validated from the mainstream, do we really need it? Esports is a powerhouse, and look no further than the hundreds of brands trying to get involved for proof. Let’s break it down.

This should be the expectation, not the exception

Things have gotten to a point now where the saturation of college esports teams means that schools without one are the outlier. If you were to tally up every school with an esports team, your list would be pages long. Look no further than our friends at Looking For Group to see just how many schools are involved.

And while I’m, of course, happy that Murray State is getting more involved with collegiate esports, I just cant bring myself to heap praise on them for doing so. This isn’t Harrisburg or UCI trailblazing a new path forward for college esports. This is a school doing what should, at this point, be the baseline expectation for college athletics.

Please don’t touch the glass

For a long time now, esports have suffered from being treated as a novelty. This is not unique to college. How many “ooo, Bugha made 3 million dollars playing Fortnite!” articles did you have to read in 2019? How many times do we have to see Jimmy Fallon asking a young esports athlete if his parents support him playing video games for a living?

We need to get beyond being treated like the new exhibit at the zoo. Esports has proven it has staying power. It draws massive numbers of people to watch it. And it’s also shown that it doesn’t need people in their fifties to watch for it to be relevant.

But kudos to Murray State

And I don’t want to sound like I’m picking on Murray State. It could have been them or any of the other 50 programs that have announced an esports team in the last 12 months. To be clear, Murray State is doing exactly what I would expect them to do and I’m glad they are. They will be too when they collect the tuition check.

All across the country, schools are realizing that college esports is a good way of attracting new students. That said, it needs to be remembered that this should, first and foremost, be a benefit for the student. If it’s just going to be a money making proposition for schools, I would prefer it if we could go back to student orgs.

I’m not saying Murray State is doing that of course, just that it is becoming a pervasive issue in the space. This is my call to action for all schools to treat collegiate esports with the respect, staffing, and budget it deserves.

The problem with esports coverage

New rule: Anytime a school announces an esports program, I’m going to copy and paste this exact article with the school names changed. Why not? The news reports coming out about college esports nationally haven’t changed in 5 years either.

Don’t believe me? Ask yourself if this rings a bell:

  • Lead anchor – “While you may be used to saying it’s a distraction, it could be their key to a college education. That’s right, your kids could soon be earning a college scholarship playing video games.”
  • Voice over – “Students at <insert school here> have been playing video games all their lives, now, they’re doing it competitively with scholarship money on the line.
  • <Interview with coach about the importance of esports and the skills students can develop.>
  • <Witty remark by lead anchor> More at 11, have a good evening!

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? It was the same story that ran back in 2016, and five years later, nothing has changed. We even ran pieces like that back in the infancy of Checkpoint! It’s time for everyone to start realizing that esports is here to stay, and treating it as such.

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Image courtesy of Esports Business Summit