Arcadia University one of a growing list to add Esports – Sports – The Intelligencer

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Esports is exploding onto the mainstream scene.

His story is a familiar one.

A kid growing up staring at a monitor, playing video games and, more than likely, worrying his parents because he wasn’t getting enough fresh air.

Skip ahead a decade and that kid is now playing video games on a collegiate level.

“I never would have thought this would be something I’d be doing in college,” Arcadia University senior Viktor McCloy, a Glenside resident, said. “I loved video games growing up. I built four computers when I was younger and just enjoyed everything about it. Then, Esports started to grow and grow and look where we’re at now.”

Look, indeed.

The popularity of Esports, or competitive video gaming (the ability to play online competitions), is soaring.

— According to estimates, the global Esports market revenue will reach 1.79 billion dollars in 2022, putting it in the top 10 most profitable sports leagues worldwide.

— More than 150 million Americans identify themselves as gamers.

— Live competitions with massive audiences have became common.

— Esports events have packed the Staples Center and Madison Square Garden and millions of dollars have been awarded to players in different games, and several players boast career earnings of more than $1 million.

— But unlike the NBA or NHL, both sidelined by the Coronavirus, it’s possible to shift Esports back online, where they began

— In fact, the NBA, National Basketball Players Association and 2K have partnered to produce an Esports NBA 2K tournament are airing on ESPN and ESPN2 starting this week.

And U.S. colleges are not being left behind.

Less than four years ago, only seven colleges had varsity Esports programs. By the end of 2018, there were 63 such programs.

At the end of 2019? There were more than 120 colleges offering Esports with over a quarter of them providing scholarships to top players. Arcadia University is one of them.

“It’s definitely a selling point, having an Esports program,” Arcadia University senior Nate Houman said. “It wasn’t until I heard that Lackawanna College started a program that I really wished Arcadia would. Then they did. We started our program last fall and it’s been great.

“Like pretty much everybody else my age, I played video games all through my childhood. But to be able to keep doing it for a college team is something I never thought was possible five years ago. I have a friend that goes to West Chester and when I told him about our arena and our Esports program he really thought about transferring here.”

Not surprisingly, many more colleges have Esports on their agenda and plan to begin programs.

“It’s absolutely a draw to have an Esports program for kids looking at colleges,” Arcadia University director of Esports Tim Belloff said.

“For us, I teach a course called ”Up Your Game“ which focuses on the social impact of video games in the United States. In 2018, I approached our athletic director about maybe starting an Esports program and he said we need to get on this sooner than later because it’s growing so quickly.

“We started doing some research to get things going and started competing against other schools last fall. Now, for me, it’s one of those jobs that wasn’t around when I was in college. I’m 39, and played video games in college, but it’s nothing like it was then.”

Now, Arcadia has a designated arena with over 50 top-shelf gaming consoles where their team competes, remotely, against other schools from across the country in games like League of Legends, Overwatch, Hearthstone and Rocket League.

“We have multiple teams with both men and women playing in an arena with 52 computers that cost over a half-million dollars,” McCloy said. “And we have players of all abilities giving it a try and being part of the team.

“We all play together in the arena, which is nice because you grew up pretty much playing video games by yourself in your room, and play other schools remotely.

“Afterward, we take a screen shot of our game and get everything updated in real time. And our season runs in the fall and spring with tournaments and since we’re playing at school, snow and bad weather doesn’t hinder us.”

The Knights play their matches with no spectators, but are hoping to start live streaming to the public in the fall.

“We compete in several leagues and do offer scholarships,” Belloff said. “And scholarships are something traditional athletes at a Division III school like ours can’t get. We recruit like traditional sports do, students will post videos of themselves playing online and there are data bases of information available, too, which help in the process.

“It’s just something that’s growing and growing. To play professionally and make a lot of money, like in any sport, is really difficult. But giving these kids a chance to do something they love to do in a team atmosphere is very rewarding.”

Arcadia University’s Esports program welcomes players of all abilities to join the team. (Photo courtesy of Arcadia University).

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