Esports gaining momentum at local colleges

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. – Experts predict that esports could generate more than a billion dollars around the world, and programs at local universities are gaining momentum.

Esports is a form of sport competition using video games. There are professional players worldwide, and the sport is gaining interest at high schools and colleges around the United States.

Krysten Ferrer, a senior at Regent University, loves video games. She’s a team captain and competes virtually with schools around the country.

“It’s thrilling. It’s exciting,” Ferrer said.

“I would say this is one of the fastest-growing sports industries in the world,” said Grant Deppen, the Old Dominion University esports director and assistant director of intramural sports.

Right now esports is a varsity sport at Old Dominion University, and Deppen said they are looking to offer scholarships to students in the near future.

“It’s really just meeting the needs of the new generation of students and the interest in areas that they want to engage in,” Deppen said.

According to Deppen, there are about 100 students who play at Old Dominion University.

Right now it’s a club sport at Regent University, and Nathan Tillett is director of the esports program. He said he’s hoping to eventually make this a varsity sport at Regent.

We reached out to Regent, which said it had no information available to release about this.

“I’ve actually been able to recruit a few students, high school kids, to come and play for us,” Tillett said.

Experts say turning a club sport into a varsity sport provides the group with more support from the college or university.

Certain colleges are using their esports program as a way to recruit students.

According to Pew Research, gaming is popular among teens, especially teenage boys. A survey of people ages 13 to 17 conducted earlier this year found that more than eight in 10 teens (84%) say they have a game console at home or have access to one, and 90% say they play video games on a computer or cell phone.

Ferrer said participating in esports is more than just playing video games for both herself and her teammates.

“Some have told me they feel like they really stepped out of their box, just to even sign up or try out for the teams,” she said. “It increases their social circle. I know some students probably wouldn’t have cared about their grades otherwise, but we do have an academic standard they need to adhere to.”

School leaders say the students need to maintain a certain GPA to remain in the club.

“If we’re not really into physical sports or other club activities, it’s kind of our outlet,” Ferrer said.

“My big aspect for esports is to connect it with the STEM and STEAM fields,” Tillett explained. He said science, technology and engineering play a huge role in esports. “There’s analytics that are really involved. You have to watch game tapes just like you…

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