Not so long ago the atmosphere surrounding video games, and gamers as a population, was slightly different. Most of us remember what it was like; playing video games in your spare time was considered a lazy and unhealthy habit. Children who loved video games were associated with social-awkwardness and physical inferiority while kids who took part in traditional sports were encouraged and praised for their efforts. Because of all this negativity from the outside world, some of us gamers truly were convinced that the thing we love to do so much wouldn’t bring us much good.
As the gaming industry expanded and we started to see more and more competitive events of games like Starcraft, Counter-Strike 1.6 and other titles of old, so, too, did the establishment of what we now call esports. Sponsors saw opportunities within the scene, new games were developed and they grabbed larger fan bases and tons of investors poured their money into developing what is now one of the largest and hardest earning competitive industries in the entertainment business.
Despite all this, and despite all the evidence that shows professional gaming requires an amount of hardwork and diligence that rivals that of traditional athleticism, the esports scene is looked upon in dismay by many skeptics who are not convinced that electronic athletes are a thing. It is for this reason that Victor Xin, a graduate of the University of Toronto and managing partner of Athena Capital Partners, decided to fund the very first UofT scholarship that rewards passionate gamers.
Back in his day as an undergraduate, Victor Xin said the school ‘frowned’ upon gaming. Video games had been a huge part of his life; he had been playing Starcraft since the early days and had partaken in some tournaments as well. So naturally, Xin did not relate to traditional athleticism on the UofT campus, instead, he sought to prove that cyber athleticism was just as legitimate. As a defiance to the stigma of gamers and an ‘in your face move’, Victor founded the University of Toronto eSports. “The idea was, instead of playing with a few friends in private, why not gather people like us and create a community, with tournaments and sponsors”, the UofT alum explained.
To realize his dream of legitimizing video gaming on the U of T campus, Victor Xin had to sacrifice lots of time in efforts of getting his club recognized by the university. He had to explain to people why his executive team of students that ‘played games all day’ was worth the time of university faculty and sponsors alike. Today, A different U of T eSports club is led by Raymond Chen who is in charge of managing intramural tournaments of CS:GO and Overwatch. The atmosphere surrounding gaming at U of T certainly has grown, but there is still lots to do.
Funding the Cyber Athlete
The Victor Xin scholarship is the first scholarship at U of T that is for candidates that possess both leadership skills and gaming skills. Specifically, engineering students with a GPA of more than 3.5 (out of 4) may apply and receive funding beginning the Fall of 2018 semester. This means that engineers who play for one of the University’s various competitive teams, for example, Jesse ‘sfhsjr’ Hernandez of the CS:GO roster, can get the funding and support to excel as gamers.
Victor believes that the level of sportsmanship and dedication that is recognized in traditional professional athletes is ignored in professional gamers. He is funding this scholarship because he believes that gamers are capable of excelling and becoming world leaders just as well as any athlete on campus. “There a lot of scholarships awarding students for traditional reasons” Xin sighe. “A lot of students may not be as mainstream as others, but they still have a lot of potential and the school should offer them the opportunity to shine”.
This scholarship means much more than the funding of a few cyber athletes; it is a step towards neighboring universities realizing the potential of video gaming. Now that the administrators at the University of Toronto have allowed a scholarship for gaming through, in a way, they have acknowledged that skilled gamers are deserving of celebration and appraisal. Raymond Chen believes that this is an opening for esports teams to become official U of T Varsity teams. Just think of the implications of a Varsity CS:GO team; like traditional sport teams, an esports team will generate a fanbase and school spirit and esports as a whole will grow even further. “This wouldn’t just be recognition from the students, this would be more monetary support from the university, more sponsors and more opportunity for our professional gamers”, Chen described.
The Way Forward
The Victor Xin scholarship will turn heads and grab the attentions of neighbouring universities as well as universities across North America. Hopefully, faculties will begin to acknowledge their leading gaming students and give them as much opportunity to prosper and excel as they do any other kind of student leaders. This was a small step towards legitimising esports across the campuses of North America, but I believe that this scholarship will set the precedent for generations to come. Sooner or later the age of the cyber athletes will come, and gamers will have their place among celebrated athleticism.