Milligan right to be ahead in the game

Johnson City Press • Apr 23, 2019 at 7:00 AM

If you are still of the opinion that video game fanatics or “gamers” are mere slackers doomed to live in their parents’ basements, think again.

Milligan College recognized that when it decided to start a school-sponsored esports team next fall complete with e-athlete recruitment and athletics-like training requirements. The team will compete in multiplayer tournaments via the National Association of Collegiate Esports.

Yes, that’s a thing, and a big thing at that.

Since its founding just three years ago, the organization has grown to more than 130 member schools and more than 3,000 student-athletes who enjoy more than $15 million in scholarships and aid.

Yes, Dad, all those hours Junior spends in playing games could result in scholarship money.

And that’s not all. As Staff Writer Brandon Paykamian reported in Sunday’s edition, there’s prize money to be had since e-athletes are not bound by the same financial rules covering intercollegiate athletics.

Still, Milligan will treat its recruits just like those who play baseball, basketball and other ball sports. Along with practice sessions, they’ll have fitness requirements to keep them in top shape for stamina in competition. Esports head coach Micah Ridley told Paykamian the team will even have game films of a sort — players and coaches will review competitions to assess weaknesses and strengths, much like other sports teams do when they prepare to play another school.

The e-Buffaloes already have a potential regional rival in King University, which started an esports team and joined the National Association of Collegiate Esports in 2018.

The two private schools are right in the thick of a major cultural trend. ESPN estimates that 427 million people worldwide are watching some form of esports. At the professional level, esports are a multimillion dollar industry with championships as popular as those in baseball and basketball. Gaming has become a lucrative spectator sport.

It’s a far cry from playing Pong and Frogger with your siblings.

If Milligan’s Ridley is right — and we think he is — esports will have a major presence on college campuses within a decade. East Tennessee State University has an esports team, but it’s at the club level, not on official university-sanctioned team. Something tells us that could change.

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