eSports, or competitive online multiplayer video games, has experienced explosive growth in the past five years. Fortnite, one of the games, has become a cultural sensation, and games like League of Legends draw millions of viewers through Twitch and YouTube. Just as fans love to watch athletes like Lebron James and Megan Rapinoe, they also tune in to watch their favorite eSports players.
In 2019, eSports reached a massive milestone by surpassing $1 billion in revenue for the first time in its history. Even more impressive: Global eSports viewers will reach 458.8 million this year, a 15% increase from 2018.
Universities across the country, including CSU Global, now offer eSports teams and programs for their students and alumni to join. Why? Because eSports offers a place for students to connect through common interests and take a break from the intensity of their coursework.
Moreover, video games have been shown to improve cognition, reduce stress, and help participants communicate more effectively. With anxiety on the rise in the United States due to reasons like safety, health, and finances, finding creative and relaxing outlets for stress is more important than ever. University eSports programs offer an easy means of stress reduction and connection.
eSports Through the Years
If you were under the impression that collegiate eSports is a new concept, think again: The first recorded eSports competition took place in 1972, at Stanford University. Players faced off against each other playing Spacewar, a two-person space combat game, and the winner took home a year-long subscription to Rolling Stone.
eSports has its roots in video games. Arcades dominated the video game world from the late 1970s to the mid-1980s before giving way to in-home consoles like the Genesis in the early 1990s. Popular multiplayer video games like Warcraft: Humans and Orcs arrived next. In 2000, Sony released its extremely popular Playstation 2 console, shepherding in a new era in gaming with its groundbreaking image quality. Online multiplayer games also exploded in this era, connecting millions across the globe and setting the stage for eSports as we know it today.
By the mid-2010s, free online-gaming options like League of Legends, dominated the market. With Amazon’s 2014 purchase of the free online video-streaming service Twitch, eSports became even more mainstream: Players and personalities, like Ninja, began streaming themselves playing popular eSports games, and the popularity and ubiquity of eSports surged.
Many eSports competitions draw viewership in greater numbers than traditional athletic events, like soccer and football, do. With the popularity of Twitch channels (the Fortnite channel draws well over 100K viewers on any given weekday), eSports are changing the way we connect with one another and consume entertainment. Just as universities have adapted to shifts in culture through the decades (think AI-focused degree programs and 100% online universities), they’re also adapting to the popularity of eSports: In 2016, only seven higher educational institutions offered varsity eSports programs — competitive eSports teams that represent universities and often offer scholarships for students, just like football or softball teams would. By 2018, the number grew to 63. Today, hundreds of universities across the USA offer eSports programs, both for recreation and at the varsity level.
Another Way to Connect
Getting in on the university eSports action is a natural step for online universities seeking to build community in a digital setting. eSports programs provide students and alumni with another way to connect with each other and build community outside the classroom. Far from being “just games,” eSports are an outlet for socialization and promote learning through problem solving.
The Future of eSports in Universities
As we approach 2020, eSports in universities will continue to grow in popularity. Expect to see more and more universities offering competitive eSports programs and introducing varsity eSports teams for students. eSports are massively popular among Millennials and Gen Z players, meaning that as these students enter universities for master’s and bachelor’s programs, they’ll bring their love for eSports along with them. If universities want to keep up, including eSports is a necessity for encouraging engagement and camaraderie among their students.
How to Join an Esports Team
CSU Global students and alumni can join our eSports team by signing up in our Discord channel.
We offer weekly scrimmages — with game type changing weekly — and monthly tournaments, typically during the last week of each month. To stay up to date on our eSports program, make sure to follow our official CSU Global Esports Twitter.