Florida Collegiate eSports
Competitive gaming or eSports is a global phenomenon that is not limited to any region or country. Each part of the globe is contributing fairly in its meteoric rise to become a billion-dollar industry and by the end of 2020, it is predicted to cross $2 billion mark . In the United States, over 164 million adults indulge themselves in the gaming world . Even with these remarkable statistics, still, there is a constant debate about whether or not eSports can be considered as a real sport. Regardless of which side you are on, nations from all over the world are accepting gaming as a competitive sport.
The US education system is welcoming eSports with open arms, as at the time of this writing, over 170 institutions are involved in varsity esports programs . The state of Florida has been a special contributor in promoting eSports in the country as it paving the way for professional gaming by forming teams at a college level and establishing multi-million-dollar arenas. It provides an exciting opportunity for students to focus on their education and at the same time work hard in their ambitions to become eSports athletes. Let's have a look at the teams that have been orchestrated by colleges and universities to encourage gaming in the education sector:
UCF Gaming Knights
One of the largest universities in the country, the University of Central Florida, houses UCF Gaming Knights. The team was founded in 2013 and since then has only developed to become the largest registered student organizations. It is sponsored by renowned enterprises like Ubisoft, Tespa and Monster Energy. The Knights have multiple eSports teams that are competing in DOTA 2, Fortnite, PUBG, League of Legends and many more. The organization has even held charity events and one of them managed to raise over $150,000 for St. Jude Children's Hospital .
The students of the University of Florida are the masterminds behind the University-Gaming organization, Gator Gaming. Its most remarkable achievement is winning the Razer University Showdown, a competition that hosts the best eSports college teams from across the country. Gator Gaming has also established a solid reputation for organizing gaming competitions and events at minimal/no cost. The biggest free gaming competition in the Southeastern United States, GatorLAN is hosted by the organization .
Florida Southern College is well-reputed for hosting some of the most talented teams in traditional Sports. In January 2018, it established its eSports club and hosts teams of Hearthstone, League of Legends and Rocket League. The institute has developed its own arena that helps students from across the campus to form a strong community and be in the company of the people who love playing games. The college also offers an eSports program which not only promotes professional gaming but also provides exciting opportunities for students to stream, coach and make a decent living for themselves. It also offers a scholarship-sponsored program in Fortnite and Counter-Strike Global Offensive .
Full Sail University invested in eSports by forming its eSports organization, Armada. It hosts a variety of eSports rosters which include, Hearthstone, League of Legends and Overwatch. The organization is supported by graduates, staff, faculty, and students of the university. The institute also holds tournaments and LAN parties for the eSports community .
The biggest contribution of Full Sail University is the development of the Fortress. Established in March 2019, it is an over 11,000 square feet venue, which allows over 450 spectators to watch eSports athletes in action. It is capable of hosting everything from small scale campus competitions to full competitive collegiate tournaments. The Fortress is the largest collegiate eSports arena in the nation and holds a concert-level PA system with over 9 million pixels of LED wall that aids in graphics and visual presentations. The $6 million eSports platform is sponsored by Draxcer, MSI and Logitech .
Florida loves eSports
Looking at how these teams and institutes are actively involving eSports it is fair to say that Florida is making big progress towards promoting competitive gaming. Since 2013, colleges of the state have been working day and night to see eSports recognized more than just a pastime or a hobby. Their efforts have borne fruitful results as technology giants are now sponsoring the institutes and willing to invest millions in the development of dedicated eSports arenas. Formed in 2016, The National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE) hosts over 170 institutes that have dedicated eSports varsity programs and Florida also holds a decent number of candidates in the list.
The future belongs to eSports
Esports is no longer just a hobby of technology-savvy young people (often referred to as nerds), but a mass movement of youth cultures worldwide. Educational institutes have also recognized this and have learned to use it for the development of the gaming culture. What used to be played on a small, national scale as the "Intel Friday Night Game" by the e-sports league is now the "Intel Extreme Masters" with top international teams and prize money up to millions of dollars . Where previously small clans had to take care of investors with constant performance and persuasiveness, today globally renowned clubs buy entire teams to distinguish themselves in the young market.
From the hobby of the exotic, eSport has now progressed to a level of professionalization that world-famous athletes often dream of. In the educational institutes of the USA and Florida, players devote themselves entirely to their computer games, develop tactics together with coaches and their team, analyze opponents and, last but not least, make a living from it. In the case of some top teams, the salaries of the eSports athletes are far greater than the traditionally working population. Since they receive advertising contracts and act as ambassadors for their sponsors. The athletes are adored by their fans and are imitated in their playing style, behavior, and gaming setup.
Media attention is also growing steadily and more and more competitions make it onto national television. In the future, we can easily see colleges in Florida and other states establishing more dedicated eSports platforms to encourage youth to become eSport superstars.