No matter what your opinion on esports may be, esports have established themselves as a major player in the sports media industry.
This year, there are three games alone that have each given out over $10 million in prize money. Last year, Team Liquid won the Dota 2 (Defense of the Ancients 2, one of the most commonly played games in the esports world) world championship and each of its players pocketed over $2 million in prize money per esportsearnings.com.
Esports is not just a budding industry, it’s already a revenue monster. Statista.com estimates that the industry as a whole brought in almost $1 billion in revenue in 2017, and it has an audience of almost 400 million people.
Its reach has extended to colleges. There are many esports leagues conducted by independent organizations, and universities have even begun to offer scholarships for gamers.
Robert Morris University was the first to do so, and many other universities have followed suit. There are more than 30 colleges and universities that offer partial scholarships to gamers, including the University of Utah per scholarship.com.
Southern Utah University is following the trend with its esports club. The club began in April of 2018, but this semester has been the first official season for the club. A group of almost 50 students meets weekly to play and watch esports.
“To me, esports is about building a community,” said eSports Club President, Jaeger Christensen. “We’re not just playing video games. We’re trying to make friends. Friendships that extend outside of college. When I get on a game I want to play, I can send a message out and three people will want to play with me.”
While the club has intentions of forming its own competitive teams and competing in tournaments, the club is currently focused on continuing its growth.
“When we started, it was just me and Anna (Shepherdson, vice president of the club). After our first meeting we had about 28 people show. After Paint the Town Red, 150 people expressed interest in the club.” said Christensen.
The club currently houses a competitive League of Legends league, where members form teams and play weekly matches against other teams within the club, culminating in a playoff tournament at the end of the semester.
SUU eSports is also holding tryouts for an official Overwatch team. The club also has frequent tournaments of Rocket League, Heroes of the Storm, Super Smash Brothers, Fortnite and Pokémon.
The club also stresses community. Video games are not just for the stereotypical basement-dwelling nerds of old. About 67% of Americans play games on some device, per Variety. SUU eSports club is meant to encourage people who are interested in playing to work on their abilities and improve their in-game skills, but also to invite students to make new friends.
For any gamers interested in joining the community and playing games in a more competitive environment, contact SUU eSports club at firstname.lastname@example.org, or attend one the weekly meetings, Thursdays at 6:30 in the Cedar Breaks Room.
Story by: Connor Sanders
Photo by: Connor Sanders