Believe it or not, before getting into college became my top priority, my dream was to become a Call of Duty eSports player (eSports = Electronic Sports). I worked relentlessly for this dream. I played every day, fueled by a can of Monster, until I was good enough to join semi-professional teams. I competed in leagues and tournaments, and I almost got myself to a $10,000 LAN [local area network] tournament, where teams compete in a single location with tens of TVs lined up, until academics thwarted that plan. Those days were the best of my life. I made lifelong friends, and the high I received from competitive Call of Duty could parallel any schedule one drug.
I always wished I could join a team in college or an official school team in high school instead of wasting my time on varsity sports played only to polish my college resume. But I couldn’t, because there was no such thing. Now I ask: why not?
Of the many changes humanity has faced in the past decade, the rise of eSports is a major one, though often overlooked. It started off with a bunch of YouTube nerds playing with each other through the website Major League Gaming, where you can bet money for matches. All of a sudden, in a span of merely a few years, it became a worldwide phenomenon. Now, those “nerds” are professionals, with a following of millions of people all over the world. They compete in professional leagues and receive a salary from their respective teams. At first, tournaments offered six-figure prizes, but now they have reached eight figures. The biggest money maker in the game is Dota 2, which offered a $34-million-dollar prize pool for its international tournament, rivaling the annual salaries of the best NBA players.
Times have changed, and just like millions of other gamers, I am calling for the creation of school-based eSports teams—not only at Bowdoin College, but also at universities and high schools all around the country. There are many reasons for this. It is a team program, creating bonds and teamwork skills for youth just as any “real” sport would. It is inclusive because your identity is not seen, although it has been an uphill battle for women as it is without a doubt a male-dominated field right now. However, this problem exists in literally every sport (look, for example, at NBA versus WNBA pay). It is accessible—the price tags of a system and monitor are small compared to the millions of dollars varsity sport teams receive annually. Once you buy the system, it’s good for years, and you will only have to buy new games. Arguably, an eSports team would be more accessible than some of Bowdoin’s varsity programs like Squash, a sport offered only at rich high schools. Gaming can be played by all, anywhere, at any time.
Furthermore, it actually makes money. Prize tournaments are all over the place. The career paths continue to grow. I mean, they even have coaches for these professional teams now. The teams offer various other career opportunities as well, such as Graphic Designer or Content Creator. The industry is certainly booming, and it will continue to do so.
The first argument I can imagine is that it is not a “real” sport since it lacks athletics. There are two counterpoints to that. One, many professional teams include athletic workouts in their practices to gather its benefits on the mind, such as increased focus. This could easily be implemented for any school teams if they were to exist. Second, a lot of non-“real” sports already exist: chess, pool and plenty more, such as bowling (but I don’t want to argue with the fans of those sports).
Times are changing. I know most readers grew up viewing gaming as an outlet for antisocial losers and an obstacle to getting a “real” career, but that is not the case anymore. It is a billion-dollar industry spewing careers out everyday, with salaries that are triple those of corporate lawyers. Institutions that claim to advance human progress must take advantage. Just imagine how sick it would be to have the LeBron James of Professional League of Legends be an alum of your school. Or to have a varsity team bring home not just a trophy, but hundreds of thousands of dollars. I doubt this will happen soon, yet I am certain my children, if I have any, will have the opportunity to try out for their school’s varsity Call of Duty team.
Times are changing, and so must we.
And it is time.
Aoguzi Muhameiti is a member of the Class of 2023.