Video games have never been considered a legitimate use of time. For older generations, games were in arcade cabinets, cost a quarter to play and offered little more than a way to pass the time after school. As gaming grew bigger, video game consoles became a household commodity. Many gamers have heard their parents or relatives refer to their beloved systems as the “Nintendo” (often preceded by “get off the” and succeeded by “dinner’s ready”).
I am a gamer and am proud to be. Late nights spent gathered around a television screen playing Super Smash Bros are some of my fondest memories, and nightly games of League of Legends, Dota 2, Hearthstone, or Rocket League are ways for me to connect with friends from miles away. Days at school were spent daydreaming of adventures. Time spent playing Guitar Hero introduced me to metal and hardrock, my favorite genres to this day. For me, gaming isn’t a pastime, it is the way to spend time.
Gamers here at UCSD are phenomenal at their respective games, yet have gone almost unnoticed to the public eye. We have 23 players ranked Legend in Hearthstone, the highest rank achievable, with one player even reaching the #2 spot in all of North America. Our League of Legends and Dota 2 teams both made playoffs in the Collegiate Star League, which boasts a $15,000 prize pool in scholarships. UCSD is also home to a top-ranked Super Smash Bros Melee player in Southern California, arguably the strongest region in the entire world. UCSD alumni David Turley and Dominic Roemer now shoutcast League of Legends matches on stream for over 400,000 thousand viewers weekly.
eSports, as the rising competitive video game scene is being called, have never been bigger. League of Legends featured $1.5 million prize pool and Dota 2’s The International boasted an enormous $18.5 million last year, with the winning team taking home $6.6 million. Heroes of the Dorm has been broadcasted on ESPN for the past two years, sporting a grand prize of free tuition for the remainder of each player’s undergraduate or graduate career.
Huge names in the business and entertainment world are flocking to eSports at rapid rates. Shaquille O’Neal, Alex Rodriguez, and Jimmy Rollins are all investors in NRG eSports, a new eSports organization. Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks and star on Shark Tank, has also expressed interest in investing. eSports has propelled video games into the mainstream spotlight with huge prize winnings and massive names attached to it.
Despite booming interest in eSports and a plethora of strong competitive teams on campus, we lack a space on campus for gamers to build a community. The initiative UC Irvine is taking to support the hobbies of their student body will pay dividends in the long run: the prize of scholarships for playing video games will attract the best young gamers in the nation. In turn, UC Irvine will have the strongest talent for years to come, netting them countless championships and tournament wins and the reputation to sponsors as the Southern California university for competitive gamers.
How does this affect the general student body? Due to the rampant growth of eSports, students would not need to pay a cent. Triton Gaming Expo was funded without the help of AS funding and provided solely by sponsors. While the D1 sports referendum will cost students over the next four years, the development of UCSD eSports can be completely funded by industry sponsorships and endorsements, just like at UC Irvine.
But what about life after gaming? For most, gaming cannot provide a sustainable source of income, whether that be through tournament earnings or revenue from online streams or YouTube gameplay. Gaming shares multiple core values with sports: the importance of friendship, the appeal and drive of competition, and multiple avenues to demonstrate creativity. Friendships forged through gaming are always accessible, never further away than a simple login. Games are innately social experiences, and forming long-lasting friendships is a common occurrence in the world of video games.
UCSD has the fundamentals covered: a huge amount of talent and skill across a variety of games. All we lack is a dedicated space for gamers to meet. While Price Center may lack sufficient room to support a gaming center, places such as Porter’s Pub and spaces in the Old Student Center could easily support dozens of gamers and provide a space for UCSD competitive gamers to improve and represent our school. The gaming scene has never been bigger, and this can be UCSD’s time to shine.
Zachery Johnson is an officer in the Triton Gaming student organization at UC San Diego. The following is his own opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of Triton Gaming.