New technology is changing our definition of athletics. Competitive video games, referred to as e-sports, have surged in popularity in recent years. E-sports generated $463 million in 2016 and is estimated to exceed $1 billion by 2019.[1] 43 million people viewed the world finals of League of Legends, the most popular competitive game.[2] Colleges around the U.S. have thus begun to consider League of Legends as a serious sport. 

MSU vs. OSU, Big Ten League of Legends Invitational

2016 Big Ten League of Legends Invitational, MSU v. OSU

On January 30, of 2017, the Big Ten network launched a League of Legends season between, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Ohio State, Purdue, Rutgers, Wisconsin, and the University of Michigan.[3] Each player on the teams received a $5,000 scholarship provided by Riot Games, the creators of League of Legends, and distributed by Scholarship America. This season concluded on March 27th, with Maryland winning the championship.[4] Riot Games also organizes other national collegiate tournaments, such as the uLoL (university League of Legends) Campus Series. Other organizations like the Collegiate Star League organize e-sports tournaments as well.

Members of Robert Morris University's varsity video gaming team practice in Chicago on in October 2014

Robert Morris University varsity League of Legends team practice

At most colleges, including the University of Michigan, e-sports teams are student-run clubs. A growing number of universities are creating varsity e-sports programs, complete with university funding and scholarships. As of April of 2017, 34 colleges have varsity e-sports teams.[5] The success of e-sports also has raised debates, as many ask whether or not video games should be considered as sports. Nevertheless, e-sports continue to grow in popularity, and an increasing number of people and organizations are taking seriously its future as a sport.

[1] Takahashi, Dean . "Esports market to grow 43% to $463M in 2016 and reach $1.1B by 2019." VentureBeat. January 25, 2016. Accessed June 20, 2017. https://venturebeat.com/2016/01/25/esports-market-to-grow-43-to-465m-in-2016-and-reach-1-1b-by-2019/

[2] Howell, Leo. "League of Legends hosts 14.7 million concurrent viewers during Worlds." ESPN. December 06, 2016. Accessed June 20, 2017. http://www.espn.com/esports/story/_/id/18221739/2016-league-legends-world-championship-numbers.

[3] Rovell, Darren. "The Big Ten Network and Riot Games launch the BTN League of Legends season." ESPN. January 19, 2017. Accessed June 20, 2017. http://www.espn.com/esports/story/_/id/18508637/the-big-ten-network-riot-games-partner-league-legends-college-esports.

[4] Zielonka, Adam. "UMD League of Legends team wins the Big Ten championship, sweeping Illinois." The Diamondback. March 28, 2017. Accessed June 20, 2017. http://www.dbknews.com/2017/03/28/umd-league-of-legends-wins-big-ten-championship/.

[5] Smith, Michael. "Colleges flip the switch on esports." Sports Business Daily. April 24, 2017. Accessed June 20, 2017. http://www.sportsbusinessdaily.com/Journal/Issues/2017/04/24/Colleges/esports.aspx.