Games at UC's Fifth Third Arena usually involve basketballs or volleyballs. This weekend, however, the play will be with magic spells, swords, and guns, on computers.
The All Midwest Collegiate Invitational is expected to draw about 500 competitors and spectators for games like League of Legends, Super Smash Brothers, and Hearthstone.
Tournaments like this are common on the East and West coasts, but Stelanie Tsirlis says that's inconvenient for game players in the Midwest.
“They have to travel out there. They have to buy the plane ticket, the ticket to get into the event itself.”
Tsirlis is a senior at Miami University and a gamer herself. She's also the chief marketing officer for AllMid, which is a collection of game players from her school, UC, Xavier, Ohio State, and others.
Together, they're out to play and to earn some respect for their sport.
There will be prizes, both cash and game credits. Tsirlis says some of the games pit individuals head-to-head, and others are for teams.
“What I like the most about the invitational this weekend is that our League of Legends tournament on the competitive side has the actual collegiate teams from all the colleges that are participating.”
Tsirlis says there are even some colleges in the U.S. that are offering scholarships for gamers.
“There aren’t many,” she admits.
“I know that there are some universities that support eSports as club sports. But to have an actual varsity team is kind of rare.”
Tsirlis says she hopes this weekend's invitational will show universities that eSports are legitimate and a big deal.
“People are invested. People are interested. And the eSports industry itself is about to explode. It’s a baby industry. I think it would be smart for any university to hop on that bandwagon and start recognizing any eSport as an actual sport and start supporting those students who play.”
Laugh all you want, but I find eSports to be a better deal to students than exploiting college football or basketball athletes for multi-million dollar programs that they'll never see a dime from, and risking career-ending and even life-threatening injuries to play. Nobody gets concussions from playing a couple Hearthstone matches. Nobody buys kids hookers, blow, tattoos and cars to play League of Legends. Coaches don't get five million a year to scream at kids playing Super Smash Bros. Melee.
It's a hell of a lot less corrupt and more morally acceptable than any major traditional college sports program out there in 2015. If the point is to let college kids play games, I'm 100% behind the AllMid an other eSports tournaments.
For now, at least. Once colleges figure out how to market this, they'll start exploiting kids for free labor I'm sure. But it still won't be as bad as college football.