Video Game Scholarship Proves Gaming Addiction Can Pay Off

By Victoria Kim 10/08/14

The rise in popularity of esports has allowed video gamers to channel their energies into something potentially positive.

league of legends staples.jpg
League of Legends at Staples Center. Photo via

Video games have come a long way since 8-bit consoles. Competitive gaming, or esports, has evolved into a professional sport. Professional gamers earn six-figure incomes and compete for millions of dollars in prizes before thousands of spectators. In South Korea, where esports is especially popular, the best gamers are treated like royalty.

Modern-day gaming demands a heightened mental agility. Many games require team strategy, predicting opponents’ moves, and a fast reaction time. Now, the most dedicated gamers can be rewarded for the countless hours spent honing these skills in the form of thousands of dollars in scholarships.

Robert Morris University, a small private university in Chicago, is the first in the country to recognize gaming as a varsity sport under its athletic department. The scholarships, which are just for “League of Legends” players, cover up to half of tuition and half of room and board, valued at $19,000 per student annually.

The school’s “League of Legends” program, which was announced in June, has attracted students like Youngbin Chung, who attends Robert Morris on a nearly $15,000 annual scholarship. He is one of 35 students who are channeling their obsessions for video games into an eduction.

The school's gaming team, the Robert Morris Eagles, practice together in a state of the art classroom fitted with $100,000 worth of gaming necessities. Their ultimate goal is making it to the League of Legends North American Collegiate Championship. The prize is $30,000 in scholarships for each member of the team that wins first place. But first, the Eagles must face teams from two leagues that include gamers from Harvard and MIT. 

About 27 million people play League of Legends each day, according to developer Riot Games. Last year’s 2013 League of Legends World Championship sold out the Staples Center in Los Angeles, which has a capacity to fit 12,000 people, while its virtual audience hit over 32 million viewers who watched the tournament online.

This year’s world championship will take place on Oct. 19 in Seoul. The event, hosted in the 45,000-seat stadium that South Korea built for the 2002 World Cup, is expected to sell out.

The mastermind behind Robert Morris' varsity esports program, Associate Athletic Director Kurt Melcher, is well aware of the massive esports trend. “It’s coming; it’s coming big time,” he told the Lansing State Journal.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr