Illinois College will become one of a small group of higher-education institutions offering scholarships for playing video games.
The growth of esports, or competitive video games, has colleges and universities developing teams to compete as prizes are growing and sponsors are taking notice, the Herald & Review reported. The program begins in the fall.
The college has hired coach Christian Matlock to lead two teams that are essentially ranked as varsity and junior varsity teams. Matlock says video games have a reputation of being a waste of time among some people, but he sees them as a way to foster teamwork skills and improve problem solving.
"I see the developmental side of things," Matlock said. "I studied sports management in college and esports has the same discipline and decision-making as other activities. All those same life skills go into gaming. This is a developmental tool."
The college is joining about a dozen schools across the nation that have teams, including Robert Morris University in Chicago and Maryville University in Missouri.
The founder of Robert Morris University's team, Kurt Mechler, said his team practices 20 hours a week on top of studying game film and team-building projects. About 20 to 30 matches or tournaments are played annually.
"The biggest misconception about esports is the traditional stereotype that seems to accompany video games — the generalization that players are lazy and unmotivated," he said. "I have found that top players in our program are equally competitive and disciplined to their craft as any of our top athletes in traditional sports."
Matlock said the scholarship amount hasn't been decided yet.