Two years ago, esports burst onto the scene at the University of North Texas. The school becoming the first public university in the state to launch a collegiate program for gamers.
“We call our students ‘athletes,’” said UNT Esports Coordinator Dylan Wray. “They get jerseys, apparel items and are held to the same academic and social standards that every university athlete would be expected to uphold.”
But unlike most student-athletes involved in spring sports, these competitors haven’t had their season cut short by COVID-19. The competition continues while also adhering to social distancing guidelines.
“We’re able to still compete and be able to do what we normally used to do despite everything getting changed,” Wray said. “Almost business as usual. They’re just playing from home versus like playing on campus.”
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The ability to maintain some semblance of normalcy right now has attracted the likes of NASCAR, which has pro drivers now behind the wheels of racing simulators -- the iRacing Series is now broadcast on a major television network every weekend.
“It really kind of creates exposure for folks that maybe never would have considered watching something like that or just kind of entertaining the notion of watching video games in general,” Wray said.
Video games can also be good for the soul.
“There’s social video games for everyone, which is important because anything that helps us stay in contact with the people we care most about, that’s what the world needs right now,” he said.
In other words, video games are providing a little joy when it’s needed most.