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Turns out that gamers really will inherit the earth – or $19,000 worth of tuition, at least. Robert Morris University in Illinois has become the first college in the United States to offer scholarships to professional gamers who play League of Legends, one of the biggest PC games in the world.
The university's new scheme is now seeking to recruit high-school gamers under the principle that this League of Legends – which attracts 27 million players a day – is a sport equal to other traditional athletic pursuits like rugby and soccer.
This new scheme in just one pocket of the American college system reflects a larger shift in attitudes towards video gaming and its potential benefits in recent years. As consoles get harder, better and faster, and AI edges ever closer, gamification is undergoing a critical reconsideration. Professional gamers are themselves hitting the mainstream – they will be the first generation to take up Oculus Rift technology with gusto, spearheading a virtual reality sphere with huge implications for the art, health and educational industries. As Dazed writer Alexis Ong puts it in her recent column: "Games today are basically the petri dish of our becoming."
Whilst this isn’t the first time sponsors have offered funds to the e-sports community, it is the first time a university has added a video game to its official sports scholarship program alongside all the usual suspects. What do you think – should video gameplay be rewarded with academic dollar? Perhaps it's time to put down the tennis racket and pick up the joystick.
Follow Claire Healy on Twitter here @clairehly
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