Nerds are the new jocks: US university offers athletics scholarships to skilled video game players

The private college in Chicago wants to attract competitive, tech-savvy but non-sporty students and has received hundreds of inquiries

us correspondent

It is surely the dream of any teenage gamer: a subsidised college education that involves sitting around all day playing video games.

But now one US university has turned that dream into non-virtual reality, by offering athletics scholarships to skilled players of the online battle game League of Legends. Robert Morris University, a small private college in Chicago, already recruits some 1,400 students a year by awarding them athletics scholarships in sports such as basketball and American football.

From autumn 2014, however, they will be joined by as many as 30 more to be awarded the new League of Legends scholarships – the first of their kind in the US.

The university has set aside a total budget of approximately $450,000 (£265,000) to fund the scholarships, the largest of which will be worth $19,000 – about half the cost of tuition and accommodation at Robert Morris. The scheme was conceived as a way for the university to attract competitive, tech-savvy but non-sporty students – most of them young men. In the days since the scholarships were announced, the school has reportedly received hundreds of inquiries.

The League of Legends scholarships were the brainchild of the school’s associate athletics director, Kurt Melcher, who told the Chicago Tribune that the video game “[is] a team sport. There’s strategy involved. You have to know your role in the game. Obviously it’s not cardiovascular in any way, but it’s mental. There are elements that go into it that are just like any other sport”.

Several institutions already offer scholarships to prospective students with gaming potential, including Sony, whose GIRL scholarship programme was created in 2008 to support young women with ambitions in the video-game industry. California’s Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences also offers several scholarships to prospective gaming professionals.

League of Legends has more than 67 million monthly players worldwide League of Legends has more than 67 million monthly players worldwide

The Robert Morris programme serves to demonstrate the increasing esteem in which competitive gaming, or “eSports”, is held. Some leading players are internet celebrities, capable of earning more than $100,000 a year, whose games are viewed by tens of millions of people online. In 2013, the US government began to issue visas to international eSports competitors that recognised them as professional athletes. Last October, a live League of Legends tournament sold out the 18,000-capacity Staples Centre arena in Los Angeles.

League of Legends was created by the Santa Monica-based studio Riot Games and released in 2009. By 2014, it had more than 67 million monthly players worldwide, 27 million of whom play daily. During peak playing hours, there are often more than 7.5 million people competing online at the same time. Players control an avatar, or “summoner”, in a fantasy environment, and must team up with other summoners to complete tasks and defeat rival teams.

The game already has competitive school and college leagues in the US. More than 750 high schools in 46 states participate in the League of Legends High School Starleague, which is likely to produce many of the candidates for the new scholarship. Some 550 universities including Harvard and George Washington field League of Legends teams in the Collegiate Starleague, though Robert Morris will be the first to make gaming an official varsity sport.

The scholarships are expected to generate three varsity League of Legends teams and several reserve squads. The college is also looking to recruit a coach. The university insists its varsity video-game players will be considered the same as members of the university’s more conventional sports teams. “It’s not like traditional sports,” Melcher said. “But as far as how the school will treat them, they’ll be looked at the same way as our basketball players or football players.”

Game on: The course work

League of Legends is an online computer game in which players create a fantasy character called a “summoner” and take part in virtual battles.

They form teams of varying sizes to complete various tasks while defeating a  rival team.

LoL’s website says: “Two teams of powerful champions, each with a unique design and play style, battle head-to-head across multiple battlefields and game modes.”

By 2014, it had more than 67 million monthly players worldwide, 27 million of whom play daily.

The website cautions that the game requires “strategic thinking, lightning reflexes and coordinated team-play to crush your enemies”.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
News
Jermain Defoe got loads of custard
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Helpdesk Team Leader / Manager

    £45000 per annum + pension,medical: Ashdown Group: A successful & reputable gl...

    IT Systems Manager

    £40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

    Data Insight Manager - Marketing

    £32000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based o...

    Data Insight Manager

    £40000 - £43000 Per Annum plus company bonus: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

    Day In a Page

    All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
    Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

    Radio 1’s new top ten

    The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
    Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

    Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

    The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition
    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
    Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

    Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

    A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
    Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

    Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

    Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
    Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

    Nick Clegg the movie

    Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
    Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

    Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

    Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

    Waxing lyrical

    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?