Collegiate esports athletes take aim at a booming industry

Faces of Chicago
Data pix.

Chicago's Robert Morris University made headlines in 2014 when it became the first college in the country to offer esports scholarships. Today, esports are still skyrocketing in popularity thanks to streaming services like YouTube and Twitch. Here's the story of the esports hopefuls who are setting their sights on this booming industry — in their own words.

Grant Welling, League Of Legends player at Robert Morris University

When I was a kid, my dad taught me how to play chess and I really fell in love with the idea of mental sports, or one-on-one and like a sort of battle of wits. I started playing League of Legends specifically when I was 12.

The tournaments were really small. I remember the first League of Legends World Championship there was maybe 25 people in the crowd. And now there are more more people that watched the League of Legends World Championship this year than watched the Super Bowl.

Most people aren't like me, right? Most people aren't going to get an immense amount of value out of video games, but that being said as a hobby it is extremely valuable. I do think that maybe at some point in the future, I'm gonna be able to look back and be like. Yeah, I had a part to play in the expansion of one of my favorite things.

Fans react as they watch Invictus Gaming compete against Fnatic during the League of Legends 2018 World Championship final at the Munhak stadium in Incheon on November 3, 2018. (Photo by Ed JONES / AFP)

Michael Wisnios, ESports Program Director at RMU

When you say athletics, you know, it's football, baseball, basketball, tennis, softball and et cetera. When we say esports, we're talking  about league of legends, CS: GO, Call of Duty, Rocket League, Smash Brothers Ultimate. Every game has its own niche skill set.

In 2022 I believe it's gonna be like a $3 billion industry and it's gonna continue to grow. That's gonna be our new entertainment industry.

Jacob Younan, Counterstrike Coach at RMU

I was also a student here. When I started playing in these arenas, you know with RMU, with other teams, it was like life-changing you got people in the crowd. You got casters. You got a lot of pressure on you to perform well.

Josh Koskinen, League Of Legends player at RMU

I always played sports ever since i was a little kid. My dad played Division One basketball and I really love the competitive aspect of League tournaments. I think it's just fantastic. They started to compete with like actual big Division One sports.

Orrin Chaplin, left, and Isaiah Lee, right, play Smash Bros. for the RMU esports team

Isaiah Lee, Smash Bros. player at RMU

I spend like probably like two hours per day practicing. I drown out like what's going on and then after that, I just let my body take control of my playing. I'm a player, but I'm also an advocate for esports; it opens up so many doors.

Orrin Chaplin, Smash Bros. player at RMU

If it wasn't for Esports I would have never had this chance.

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