Good with a joystick? One university gives scholarships to video gamers

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1 Good with a joystick? One university gives scholarships to video gamers By Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, adapted by Newsela staff on Word Count 932 Robert Morris University Illinois students Sondra Burrows, 21, (left) and Alex Chapman, 20, play "League of Legends" during a practice of the school's esports program. The school spent $100,000 turning a computer lab into an esports Arena with fast processing computers, large monitors, high-end ergonomic gaming chairs and a strict no-food-or-drink policy. Photo: Andrew Rush/ Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/TNS CHICAGO Derek Micheau dreamed of becoming a baseball pitcher until a shoulder injury sidelined him. Later that season, a knee injury ended his hopes of playing catcher. In the end, he still got an athletic scholarship, even without healthy shoulders or knees. Micheau earned a scholarship to play video games at Robert Morris University Illinois. The small school in Chicago became the first U.S. university to offer scholarships for video gaming. The school gave out 35 scholarships this fall to gamers from around the country as part of its esports program.

2 It's Not A Scam! My mom thought it was a scam, said Michaeu, who is now in his first year at Robert Morris. His mother thought the school might be lying to get more students and make more money from tuition. Micheau s scholarship pays for half of his tuition, room and board. Each student normally pays more than $30,000 per year to study and live at Robert Morris. Micheau's scholarship is saving him and his family thousands of dollars each year. Robert Morris has about 2,500 students at its Chicago campus and about 6,000 across several campuses in Illinois. Like many colleges, it has an athletics program that includes a number of competitive teams. Colleges have recruited students with athletic ability for many years. Scholarships are one of the ways that schools attract talented athletes. To encourage players to attend their school rather than a competing school, colleges offer to pay for part or all of players' tuition. Athletic scholarships, in other words, are nothing new. Scholarships for video game players are. Robert Morris' scholarships are the latest development in the world of competitive video games, or esports. Undefeated In The esports Arena The school also spent $100,000 turning a computer lab into an esports Arena. It features fast-processing computers, large monitors, high-end gaming chairs and a strict no-food-or-drink policy. The gamers play League of Legends, a multiplayer online battle arena, or MOBA, that groups players into teams in head-to-head battles. The game requires each player to take on certain roles with certain skills. Each team tries to knock down the opponent s tower before the opponent knocks down theirs. The two teams on Robert Morris varsity squad are undefeated this year. They play against teams from other colleges. Gamers are treated like any other group of college athletes. They are outfitted with official sweatshirts and jackets. They practice under the supervision of one head coach and four assistant coaches. We re definitely taking it seriously. We want them to do well, said Kurt Melcher, associate athletic director and program coordinator.

3 As Seen On ESPN And HBO It was his idea to offer scholarships to attract talented gamers to the school. These scholarships have gotten Robert Morris a lot of national attention. The esports scholarship program has been featured by ESPN, NPR, HBO s Real Sports and a variety of other news groups. Why are colleges willing to spend money to attract athletes in the first place? Some college sports programs pay for themselves. Men's football and basketball, for example, are so popular that colleges make profits on them by selling tickets, merchandise, advertising and TV and radio rights. Most athletic programs do not make money, however. Still, they can be a source of school pride. The esports program does not bring in much money for Robert Morris University Illinois, so the school has partnered with a few sponsors. Sponsor companies help pay for the cost of the team and, in exchange, the teams provide publicity for the companies by using their products. I wanted to make sure we jumped on it as fast as possible because I knew this would be a big deal. There was no way it couldn t be, said John Spiher, marketing director at DXRacer USA, which sells gaming chairs and sponsors the Robert Morris esports team. The company outfitted Robert Morris esports arena with one of its chairs, which normally costs $349. Big Bucks To Go Pro After they graduate, gamers have the potential to earn a significant amount of money as professionals. The best professional gamers earn more than $100,000 per year through sponsorship deals and competition winnings. In total, winners took home more than $25 million in prize money in 2013, a 350 percent increase since the start of the decade, according to Jim Yang, who works at Nurun, a global design and technology company headquartered in Montreal, Canada. That money is just a fraction of the amount that the gaming industry takes in each year. Overall, the industry brings in $25 billion annually, according to the Entertainment Software Association, a Washington-based trade group. The increasing popularity of esports might surprise people who are unfamiliar with the world of competitive gaming. The League of Legends finals in 2013 sold out at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Thousands of viewers watched the competition with the same kind of excitement that baseball fans watch the World Series. The 2014 finals, held last month, drew more than 40,000 fans to a former World Cup soccer stadium in Seoul, South Korea, and millions more watched online.

4 Because of the popularity, it might not be long before other schools follow Robert Morris' example and start offering esports scholarships. With these scholarships in mind, some parents might want to think twice before telling their kids to turn off the computer. It s kind of cool to see kids who might ve been in the shadows say I got an athletic scholarship, too, said Nancy Donohoe, director of public relations at Robert Morris. Someday, gamers might be just as popular as basketball and football players.

5 Quiz 1 Select the paragraph from the section "Big Bucks To Go Pro" that suggests that esports have broad appeal. 2 Which sentence from the article highlights how unusual the Robert Morris University esports scholarship is? In the end, he still got an athletic scholarship, even without healthy shoulders or knees. My mom thought it was a scam, said Michaeu, who is now in his first year at Robert Morris. Micheau's scholarship is saving him and his family thousands of dollars each year. The school gave out 35 scholarships this fall to gamers from around the country as part of its esports program. 3 Read the sentence from the article. The esports program does not bring in much money for Robert Morris University Illinois, so the school has partnered with a few sponsors. Which word has the most similar meaning to "sponsors" as used in the sentence above? advertisers companies funders video games

6 4 Read the sentence from the article. After they graduate, gamers have the potential to earn a significant amount of money as professionals. Which word could replace "potential" without changing the meaning of the sentence? promise prosperity pedigree possibility

7 Answer Key 1 Select the paragraph from the section "Big Bucks To Go Pro" that suggests that esports have broad appeal. Paragraph 18: The increasing popularity of esports might surprise people who are unfamiliar with the world of competitive gaming. The League of Legends finals in 2013 sold out at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Thousands of viewers watched the competition with the same kind of excitement that baseball fans watch the World Series. The 2014 finals, held last month, drew more than 40,000 fans to a former World Cup soccer stadium in Seoul, South Korea, and millions more watched online. 2 Which sentence from the article highlights how unusual the Robert Morris University esports scholarship is? In the end, he still got an athletic scholarship, even without healthy shoulders or knees. My mom thought it was a scam, said Michaeu, who is now in his first year at Robert Morris. Micheau's scholarship is saving him and his family thousands of dollars each year. The school gave out 35 scholarships this fall to gamers from around the country as part of its esports program. 3 Read the sentence from the article. The esports program does not bring in much money for Robert Morris University Illinois, so the school has partnered with a few sponsors. Which word has the most similar meaning to "sponsors" as used in the sentence above? advertisers companies funders video games

8 4 Read the sentence from the article. After they graduate, gamers have the potential to earn a significant amount of money as professionals. Which word could replace "potential" without changing the meaning of the sentence? promise prosperity pedigree possibility

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