William and Mary needs to embrace the nationwide esports trend

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GRAPHIC BY: EMMA FORD, NATHAN SEIDEL // THE FLAT HAT

With all the craze around basketball these last few weeks — along with the excitement of the impending return of football — it is becoming evident that the College is squandering its potential to create a new powerhouse for excitement: an official esports team.

Having come from out west, I have enjoyed seeing universities such as Boise State, California-Irvine, California-Berkeley, and Utah join the number of schools deciding to create dynamic and successful varsity esports teams. These schools allow students with an aptitude in competitive video games such as Blizzard Entertainment’s “Overwatch” and Riot Games’ “League of Legends” to represent their university.

A prospective student can test their skill and vie for a spot on the team with the assurance that, if they make the cut, the school will grant them scholarship money in the same way that a traditional athlete would receive money to compete for a school.

The general trend for esports in 2019 is extreme upward growth. The upcoming finals for the North American League of Legends Spring Championship is set to surpass last year’s record 600,000 live viewers. Likewise, according to CNBC, 2018’s League of Legends World Championship in Seoul, South Korea drew in 100 million unique viewers — two million more than watched Super Bowl LII in 2018.

So why is it that Tribe Athletics is turning a blind eye to the growth of collegiate esports? While Irvine and Boise State build esport gaming coliseums, the College seems more preoccupied with attempting to convince apathetic students that traditional sports are what they should spend their weekend viewing. An esports coliseum would provide an alternate outlet for entertainment to students who would prefer to spectate a tournament. It would provide the necessary equipment for students of differing economic resources to be able to enjoy the latest competitive games on equipment they can access.

Despite the negative attention that video games receive amongst the general populace — often described as a “waste of time” — there is an inseparable link between video games and the vital fields of computer programming and mathematics. The explosive growth of video games presents an opportunity for the creators of the future to be part of a movement that inspires millions of gamers.

If the College were to create an open environment of equal opportunity, not only could the Tribe’s potential epsorts team bring home championships, but perhaps it could serve as a rallying point for the College’s community of gamers and esports fanatics. Likewise, perhaps a curiosity in esports would encourage more people to consider William and Mary to be their destination for high-tech education.

Email Gavin Aquin at

gaaquin@email.em.edu

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Gavin Aquin
Gavin Aquin '22 is a Sports Editor for The Flat Hat, having previously contributed to the Sports section since 2018 as an Associate Editor. He is from Las Vegas, Nevada/Los Angeles, California, and sees his West Coast upbringing as instrumental to his worldview. He is a History and European Studies double-major, with a particular interest in Spanish and French cultural issues, the legacy of Greece and Rome on the Mediterranean world, and the history of the Jewish Diaspora — especially that of the Sephardim. In his free time, he cheers for the Vegas Golden Knights, the LA Dodgers, F.C. Barcelona, Tottenham Hotspur, and the Spanish National Football Team.