Collegiate eSports: My View on its Future
This is my first of, what is sure to be, many blogs. I will talk about how I view the current state of collegiate eSports and I will talk some about what I think could improve this competition rich scene.
While watching the Starcraft 2 matches between Georgia Tech and the University of Waterloo tonight I was left wondering why collegiate level eSports aren't more popular. College sports (i.e. football) are madly popular in the states and attract millions of viewers every Saturday. At my college you could smell the the barbeque from tailgaters halfway across campus. Why doesn't this occur in eSports? Okay, maybe fans would rather snag a few autographs instead of barbequing, but the idea is still there. Different crowd, different display of passion. That brings me to my first point which is passion.
Passion is what drives all sports. College sports teams are often times known for having more passionate and crazy fans than even the professional form of that sport. These are the fans that show up rain or shine and yell their voices hoarse. Passion is the key to the formula and is currently not present in the collegiate eSports scene. Sadly, the current viewer base for collegiate eSports is quite small. I fear that not many even know that the scene exists. This brings me to my first point in what I believe collegiate eSports needs in order to be successful.
Collegiate eSports needs more of a viewer base. One way of achieving this effectively is through Reddit. A good example of this is how the Azubu CSL Sandy Relief League of Legends stream on Twitch.tv went from ~50 viewers at it's start to roughly 1,200 and second stream on the list. Why? Partially due to a post by CLG on Reddit that skyrocketed to the top. Before this post, the only advertising that was to be found was one moderate-traffic website. What this scene really needs is professional support. I am pleased to be able to say, though, that in the past months, the professional support for the scene has greatly increased with the IvyLoL league tournaments being casted by names such as Riot Jaws and MalfusX, Azubu kicking off its Sandy relief marathon (with help of CLG, Sheth, etc.) coupled with the kick off of their Collegiate Star League a few days later, and finally with the IvyLoL final four being featured at Lone Star Clash 2.
Ideally, I'd like to see Riot Games, MLG, or perhaps IPL support a collegiate bracket in their tournaments that could potentially act as a minor league. Unfortunately, a potential problem I see with collegiate eSports is that many of the college students playing these games may not have the time or schedule to duke it out at weekend long tournaments. This may very well be the achilles heel of collegiate eSports as we know it as scheduling could become complicated. Perhaps this could be overcome though. Gamers are known for their passion for gaming, I certainly wouldn't rule out seeing college teams at tournaments just because Little Jimmy forgot to do his homework that night. Another big hit concerning the possible time constraints would be the lack of streaming. With the students often studying or working, the long hours necessary to have a successful stream just aren't plausible. Why do I mention this? I mention it, because streaming is a large part of publicity for professional gamers and would be as well for the semi-pro college teams. Without streams up at the peak hours of the day the marketing for these teams becomes that much more difficult.
Now to the fun stuff: Rivalry. Whether it be TSM and Curse or the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals, rivals exist in all sports. They instigate rich trash talk and intense competition. Lucky for collegiate eSports, rivalry should come easy. This is due to the simple fact that most of the universities that have gaming teams competing already have other sports team that have been around for some time which will certainly serve as existing rivalries to start with. This works in the favor of collegiate gaming as it should attract a larger crowd if a rival game is advertised around campus. Why? I see it as, most people on campus will know about School A (the one they attend) and School B (the rival). If they see a poster on campus that says "School A is playing School B in the biggest eSports tournament to date!", they are more likely to check it out and watch the matchup and, if we're lucky, they'll stick around and continue to support the team in the future. This is all opposed to a poster saying something along the lines of, "School A is playing in the biggest eSports tournament around!", because that only speaks to a small group of people. Simply put, not everyone knows is an eSports fanatic while most people around will know of a rivalry or matchup between schools. It's how you market it, and if done right it will boost the fanbase of collegiate eSports three fold.
Before I wrap this up, I want to touch on another point that seems to be coming up in my news feed lately which is that of scholarships for eSports. Scholarships are a great incentive/reward for being a gamer and a great student. It highlights role models in the gaming community that are also full time students. These scholarships show that dedicated gamers don't fit some shut-in basement dwelling stereotype. I feel that eSports should be treated as any other sport in the world. They all require dedication, passion, and motivation. Scholarships in eSports show that gaming is not just sitting alone in your room. As with other collegiate sports, it is also about achieving excellence in academics and in their sport. With that being said, earlier this year Twitch.tv (partnered with Alienware and SteelSeries) announced that they would be handing out roughly $50,000 in scholarships that was divided among five students who showed outstanding grades, gaming achievements, dedication, and passion. That's right, passion. I believe that the core of all sports is passion. I started off talking about passion and I will end with it, because it is singlehandedly the most important thing fueling professional gaming. It's what makes us gamers tick.
That concludes my ramblings on where I think college level eSports is headed. Look forward to some new blogs from me soon. I hope to see you all then. Thanks for reading!