eSports is expected to soon become a billion dollar a year business in the United States. The University of North Texas has plans in place to become the next big player.
This semester UNT became Texas’ first public university with an official collegiate eSports program. The school already invested $200,000 in an eSports facility on campus. Now, tryouts are being held for teams as UNT takes it's program to the varsity level.
For junior business major Nick Cotton, it's a chance to do something he only used to do in his dorm.
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"I'm used to playing in my room and staring at the screen," said Cotton. Not like 200 people.”
Cotton, his teammates, and several other teams competed in a demonstration tournament in the UNT Union. The game Overwatch was played on game consoles set up on a stage, with play-by-play announcers, in front of a packed house.
"UNT is a progressive university overall," said Cotton. "The vibe is forward thinking and accepting of new ideas.”
"I’m not bragging, but I’m pretty sure I’m in a position to make it," said Dallin Russell, a freshman.
Like many who participate in eSports, Russell began playing when he was a kid.
"Just like any sport, trash talk, it can be healthy, honestly, because I’m more motivated," he said. "But at the end of the day we’re all friends. You can’t really fight when you’re all playing together.”
The games take concentration. Players wear headsets so they can communicate with each other during games. Fans watched the game action on a large screen which hung over the stage.
UNT's "Heroes of the Storm" team is currently ranked fourth in the nation among colleges. They are involved in a "Final Four"-style tournament, and tens of thousands of dollars in scholarship money is at stake. For those who take part, the competition is much more than just a game.
"I feel involved," said Russell. "I didn’t feel involved with the school at all before. I found my niche. It’s amazing. I love it.”