Overwatch and college don’t usually come up in the same sentence (unless you’re looking for an excuse to procrastinate on that paper), but The University of California, Irvine is looking to change that with their latest initiative. Overwatch scholarships will be rolling out in Fall 2017, and the shooter will be the second game to join the esports scholarship program. This follows massive investments in the esports scene from the university, including an on-campus esports arena.
This is new to Overwatch, but UCI have experience in this particular field. Irvine was the first college to support esports with similar programs, and they’ve had a great deal of experience with their League of Legends initiative. While Overwatch will no doubt offer new challenges, UC Irvine is the college best equipped to tackle them.
Mark Deppe, Acting Director for UCI eSports, shared his thoughts on the upcoming scholarships in a press release.
“We are very excited to take this next step in growing our scholarship program for top gamers who are also strong students and great members of our community,” said Mark Deppe, Acting Director for UCI eSports. “We look forward to connecting the excitement generated by our competitive teams to advance efforts along our other pillars: Academics, Community and Entertainment.”
Overwatch has yet to build the infrastructure of other established titles. League of Legends, for instance, has an established collegiate circuit that acts as a campus community builder and even a talent pool for LCS teams. Overwatch, on the other hand, is still finding its feet, especially with the Overwatch League still under wraps. UCI selected the game because of its inclusive cast, diverse community, and progressive values. While the esports scene is still being established, the game recently surpassed 30 million active players.
The next challenge will be translating that active player base into a sustainable collegiate scene. Jenny Song, President of the Association of Gamers at UCI’s gaming club has already started that process.
“We are grateful that the program will be extending and recognizing the talent we have in our Overwatch community,” she stated in a press release. “We are excited to continue working with the UCI eSports program to provide more scholarships for our teams and qualified players.”
UCI’s Overwatch club has already started to make strides in the competitive circuit. They have won multiple local collegiate LAN tournaments, and have dominated both the Tespa Summer Series in 2016 and the Tespa Collegiate Series. The next steps include hiring a coach, hosting tryouts, and preparing fitness, academic, and social support.
The collegiate scene in esports is intended to work as both a community builder and a second tier of competition for established esports. While Overwatch doesn’t have the history or infrastructure of a game like League of Legends, the unique art style and strong characters have drawn in plenty of players who are new to the esports world. With this program, they’ll be able to turn that passion into textbook money. That’s definitely a good thing.