Esports refers to the hugely popular and rapidly growing field of competitive video gaming. College varsity esports began in 2014 when Robert Morris University in Illinois announced a scholarship-sponsored “League of Legends” team.
Andrew Morong, director of admissions at CMCC, notes that the College is currently recruiting top players in Maine and beyond to join the first team for fall 2019. Students who participate will have to meet the same requirements as other athletes at the College. “We will be competing against other colleges in a sanctioned league”, says Morong.
Morong also notes that CMCC will be competing largely against four-year colleges, since they comprise 90 percent of NACE membership. “We will be the only community college north of Virginia to offer competitive eSports,” he added.
The College is developing a state-of-the-art facility, known as an “esports arena,” that will be ready next fall for practice and competitions. CMCC will acquire 30 high-end gaming computers (Alienware 51Threadrippers), five console stations for Xbox One and PS4 Pro.
CMCC President Scott Knapp points out that interest in esports is growing rapidly, with viewership already surpassing that of some more traditional sporting events. “The 2017 Stanley Cup Finals had just over 29 million total viewers (broadcast and streaming). This year’s mid-season “League of Legends” Invitational had 60 million total viewers,” Knapp added.
According to the market research firm Newzoo, over 200 million people watched or played esports in 2014. Huge esports tournaments now take place all over the world in big arenas with large crowds. While esports have long been very popular in Asia, North America and Europe now claim 28 million esports fans and the number is growing by 21 percent a year.
NACE officially formed in July 2016 when only seven colleges and universities had varsity esports programs. Interest has since exploded, with more than 90 member institutions with 1,500 student athletes now competing in varsity programs. Approximately 90 percent of all varsity esports programs in the U.S. are members of NACE.
In addition to providing governance with standardized rules, NACE also provides a private discord server (voice-over software) for athletic directors and coaches. It also assists with Student-athlete recruitment and competition between varsity programs. NACE has provided over 9 million dollars to participating students in scholarships and aid.
Member schools compete in a wide number of different game titles, with Counter Strike, League of Legends, Hearthstone, Rocket League, Fortnite, and Madden NFL among the most popular at the present time.