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Copyright 2017 The Daily Record Apr 16, 2017
Daily Record; Wooster, Ohio
Professional video game player. Sounds like a job made up by a middle-schooler. Maybe professional football or basketball, but professional video game playing? It is true and it is a field that is growing fast.
Frequently called "esports," professional competitive video game playing is becoming something of the mainstream in the United States. I do have to point out that it is in the United States, because the U.S. is actually late to the esports arena. Many countries, especially in Asia, have had robust professional video game circuits for a number of years. When I lived in Hong Kong in 2009, one of the only English-language TV channels was esports. It included commentators, instant replays and player stats. It was like a video game version of ESPN.
The first question you may ask is what type of video games fall into esports? Esports games range from rapid reflex fighting games such as first-person shooters to more strategic games such as real-time strategy games. You may think only newer video games are used. Actually, some of the most popular games are older ones such as Super Smash Bros. (first released in 1999) and StarCraft (first released in 1998). Almost any gaming platform is included, from PCs to Playstations.
So what is happening with esports in the U.S.? Quite a lot. Chinese-based company Allied Esports has a "Rapid North American Expansion Plan for Esports Arena Business." Included in this plan is a recent announcement on April 11 that it is partnering with MGM in Las Vegas to build "a multi-level arena complete with a competition stage, LED video wall, telescopic seating, daily gaming stations" along with other amenities. According to Mashable, betting on esports at Vegas casinos has been around since the fall of 2016.
In order to feed the demand for esport players, colleges have developed esports programs of their own. The programs even include scholarships. The first college to offer esports programs, according to Red Bull (which sponsors many esports events), was Robert Morris University in Chicago. At Robert Morris, you can earn up to 50 percent of tuition, room and boarding costs through an esports scholarship. The biggest school with an esports program in the U.S. would most likely be the University of California, Irvine. UCI even has a state-of-the-art PC café to support the program. Search "esports scholarships" on Google and you will discover a rapidly growing list of schools all over the country starting up scholarship programs for esports.
Where will esports go from here? It is hard to tell; however, a growing number of sponsors, entertainment companies and software development firms are pouring money and resources into the field. Teams and players are landing major sponsorship deals from many well-known companies. In case you want to stay up-to-date on the latest for esports, you can visit ESPN.com/esports. ESPN now follows esports by video game.
Brian Boyer is the managing partner of Web Pyro (http://www.webpyro.com) located in Wooster.
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