Are Esports really sport? Are competitive gamers athletes? These questions have been kicked around quite a bit the last few years as the Esports Industry has exploded in growth. High schools have added teams; Colleges have added teams; organizations like the National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE) and Tespa have built leagues and competitions; and the industry itself is approaching $1 billion dollars in annual revenue this year (2019). Some have argued Esports is not sport? But researchers from several fields, particularly the North American Society for Sport Management (NASSM) have successfully argued that Esport is, without a doubt, sport. And besides, if something appears on ESPN, the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network, it must be sport, right?
What are Esports? By one simple definition, Esports are tournament level, interactive, competitive video games.
But are gamers athletes? In 2015, the Pew Research Center noted that 72% of all American teenagers play video games on some type of device on almost a daily basis. The number eclipses though who play traditional sports. To dial in on this question a bit more, Esports requires a specific physical and mental skillset, continued practice, and offers opportunities for competition, all Hallmarks of traditional sports and traditional athletes. In response to this question, one study in Germany said, yes, gamers are athletes. In fact, that study noted that the amount of cortisol (the body’s main stress hormone, made by the adrenal glands) produced by professional video gamers was equivalent to that of a race-car driver. International governments have said, yes, gamers are athletes, by granting professional gamers the same travel visa that is granted to other professional athletes. Even the NCAA and collegiate conferences are saying, yes, gamers are athletes.
Lees-McRae College has embraced this rising sport, and in fact, was an early adopter. Our Esports team has existed since 2015 here on campus. We annually field a team of scholarship and non-scholarship athletes to compete in games such as Overwatch, League of Legends, Hearthstone, and more. Our primary league affiliation currently is Tesla. This spring the team will move into a new gaming room, with all-new rigs, and set its site on expanding its competitive level in upcoming fall the season.
Wait. Did we just say we scholarship competitive gamers? Yes, we did. Remember when mom said video games would not get you into college? Well, we love you, mom. But you were wrong… this one time.
We are constantly recruiting, looking for others like ourselves, with experience in, and a fire for, competitive gaming. If you are a competitive gamer, you could be one of us. Gaming is more than a hobby, more than a time-filler, it is a choice. It is a passion. And here, at Lees-McRae College, it is a sport. Come pursue your passion in this sport with us.