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LARSON’S FAR SIDE offered a laugh some 15 years ago titled “Hopeful Parents.”
But who’s laughing today? Not people at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Varsity Esports are a big deal at HU, with significant scholarships to gamers earning places on The HU Storm, the university’s varsity esports team.
Esport Etymology. For those who have yet to be hooked on video gaming, the word “esport” follows the etymological practice of tacking an “e” in front of anything transformed by the internet: email, ecommerce, and etail, to name three others.
HU Storm’s eThree. HU Storm specializes in League of Legends, Overwatch, and Hearthstone, video endeavors about which I confess to know very little. (But have I told you about GMax and Microsoft Flight Simulator?)
Like any other collegiate sports program, each of HU Storm’s specialities has a Head Coach. For example, the League of Legends mentor is Alex “Xpecial” Chu. According to the HU website, Xpecial “has been involved in the professional gaming scene since 2010 as a player and coach, including his most recent stint with Golden Guardians…. He is also one of only nine players who qualified for three World Championships.”
Having been living under a rock in this regard, I was unaware of this intense egaming scene. But, in a way, I’m not surprised.
Historical Precedents. With few exceptions, pre-e sports originated with kids getting together to kick a stone around or to pretend fighting with sticks. Only later did the tools and rules of the play get formalized. And later yet, entrepreneurs began to recognize that other folks would pay money to watch the best players display their prowess.
Next thing you know, there’s the NBA, NFL, NHL, and, for the mechanically inclined, NASCAR.
HU Esports Programs. From the HU website: “We see collegiate esports as an all-around great opportunity: Our student players have the opportunity to pursue degrees in today’s hot fields, compete under a world-class coaching staff, and learn in our state-of-the-art practice space. Working alongside HU’s student support staff, our coaches teach our varsity players team-building fundamentals, emphahsize time management, and connect them with counselors/emotional support.”
“Offered as our one-and-only varsity sport,” HU says “we host one-of-a-kind spectator events, including HUE Invitational, where 64 world-class varsity esports teams compete in this tournament for a grand prize pool of $50,000. Events such as this have helped establish HU and Harrisburg as a hub of east-coast esports.”
Evidently, esports are ahead of the collegiate play-for-pay curve: Only recently has NCAA announced its plans.
The sound you hear may be Jim Thorpe spinning in his grave.
HU’s Pitch. HU says, “If you have a passion for esports, but aren’t sure where you can learn the nuances and techniques that make it so special, look no further than Harrisburg University (HU). When considering esports, it’s important to understand that not everything revolves around being a professional player.”
Nor is HU alone in these opportunities. The website liquidluck.gg offers a list of the “50 best college eSports programs in existence.” Alphabetically, they range from Ann Arbor Esports at the University of Michigan to Zips Esports (University of Akron). Included among them is Shenandoah Esports, with Shenandoah University being “the first college in the country to offer an actual eSports major.”
Who would have guessed? ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2019