Video gaming, once thought of primarily as child’s play, is now big business. Organized, competitive gaming, colloquially known as esports, has undergone a major transformation in recent years, with an influx of big financial players into the industry and a surge of professional players, tournaments, sponsors and development programs.
The shift can even be felt in Lexington, where the more than $1 billion industry is beginning to take hold with the launch of the University of Kentucky’s comprehensive esports program in 2019.
UK teamed up with international esports organization Gen.G for the program, one of only two schools in the United States that the company is partnered with, the other being Eastern Michigan University. According to Heath Price, UK’s associate chief information officer and a leader of the university’s esports program, the aim of the partnership is to expand classroom and internship opportunities related to esports, while also providing professional development and new research methods for scholars.
Additionally, Gen.G has pledged $100,000 annually for the next 10 years to a scholarship fund open to students majoring in gaming, esports, entrepreneurship, journalism and related fields.
“Esports today act as a portal, in many cases more than traditional sports, to how our students communicate and view the world,” Price said. “That doesn’t mean that all of our students are hardcore gamers, but it does likely mean that they all play games to some degree.”
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