Millions of people play video games, but the CNN report noted that some 380 million people worldwide watch – yes, watch – esports annually.
Some tournaments generate millions of dollars in ticket sales and the gamers who win can earn upwards of seven figures a year in prize money.
It’s catching on locally, too. Earlier this month in Grand Forks, hundreds of gamers gathered at the Alerus Center and competed in various games – football and racing, for instance – in hopes of winning a cut of a $2,500 prize pool.
Last week, the Herald reported that esports – competitive video games – are on the cusp of being formalized in high schools statewide.
And why not? Anything that gets children involved in extracurricular activities, while involving teamwork and school spirit, sounds good to us.
Traditionalists will be alarmed, no doubt. But as worries about student health – concussions, for instance – rise, it’s inevitable that some students will migrate from traditional team sports. Sports like football and volleyball still have their place; after all, we believe those activities and others are unmatched for teaching teamwork and commitment while promoting good health.
But numbers – declines in football and a rise in other activities, such as e-gaming – show that not everybody agrees. And that’s OK.
After all, isn’t it better for students to simply be involved?
There is a growing club league in North Dakota, including teams at both Grand Forks public high schools. It likely will be sanctioned by the North Dakota High School Activities Association within a year, which means it won’t be long before North Dakota crowns its first official e-sports high school team champion.
The teamwork that will come from esports is only one of the benefits. Sanctioning the sport will mean rules and regulations, and that means more kids adhering to policies – called “training rules” in past years – and working harder in classrooms to stay eligible.
The high school students who do well could land on a college team, right here in North Dakota. The University of Jamestown has had an esports team since 2017, and new programs have begun at Dickinson State University and Bismarck State College. At Jamestown, scholarships of up to $2,500 are available.
And for the ultimate gamers, professional fame and fortune may await. Across the nation, new stadiums are being built to accommodate the highest levels of the sport and the large crowds that follow it. In Philadelphia, a $50 million, 3,500-seat arena is in the works.
A new era has dawned. It may cut into the numbers of some traditional sports, and that’s unfortunate since we still believe those sports are important. But we don’t see e-gaming going away anytime soon, nor do we think it should.
More kids wearing school colors should be the goal.