Today, almost 90 Robert Morris students play, and about 80 of them receive e-sports scholarships, Mr. Melcher said. Varsity-level players can receive scholarships that cover up to 70 percent of their tuition; reserve players receive 35 percent tuition coverage.
At the University of California Irvine, where e-sports fall under student affairs, gamers must try out for a team and scholarship offers come later. There are 23 students on e-sports scholarships at U.C.I. this year, on varsity and junior varsity teams, said Mark Deppe, who runs the university’s e-sports program.
E-sports players at U.C.I. devote 15 to 20 hours a week to the sport, Mr. Deppe said. Players scrimmage other teams, watch Video on Demand footage to evaluate performance, participate in team meetings, sit for biweekly sessions with a team psychologist and work out once a week with a personal trainer. The physical workout is e-sports-inspired: aside from general cardio, routines emphasize strengthening core muscles, arms, shoulders and wrists.
“There’s discipline involved, there’s practice involved, there’s teamwork and collaboration involved, but also the physical aspect,” said Mark Candella, known as Garvey, the director of strategic partnerships for the streaming platform Twitch. “These young people can do up to 360 controlled precise actions per minute. Their fingers and hands and their eyes move so quickly in exact coordination.”
Organized competitive gaming on both the high school and university levels lives in purposeful defiance of the gamer stereotype: as Mr. Melcher said, “a kid locked in a basement, antisocial, angry, drinks 50 Mountain Dews and doesn’t sort of become a valuable person in society.” In the educational sphere, game play often brings students out of basements and bedrooms.