University esports: Why is collegiate esports bigger in the USA?
News - 6 Dec 2016
We interview Tyler Schrodt, founder of the Electronic Gaming Federation (EGF), a US-based organisation that brings varsity esports programs to colleges around the world. What is it doing and how can the UK learn from it?
Collegiate sports is a big deal in the USA. Athletics, American football and basketball all have a passionate following - and now esports is stepping up.
For example, there are now collegiate League of Legends tournaments, with the University of California, Irvine, opening a 3,500sq ft esports arena, as well as offering students competitive gaming scholarships.
The universities are big, the events are big and the sponsors are getting behind esports in a bigger way.
In the UK, it's not quite the same. While there are some exciting varsity rivalries, including Oxford and Cambridge, Brighton and Sussex, and York and Lancaster (with the latter two universities adding esports to their annual Roses varsity sporting event), they don't quite have the same level of coverage and focus that the US gives its collegiate scene.
However, the UK does have the National University Esports League (NUEL), which provides national tournaments in universities across the UK in a variety of games.
Josh Williams, founder of the NUEL, said: "The NA university scene is miles ahead right now. I've spoken to universities who have multiple paid coaches just for League of Legends; we only know about a few coaches who help out as a volunteer. So we s
houldn't underestimate the work that needs to be done, but we're going to get there."
The American Dream
So why and how is America miles ahead at the moment? We spoke to Tyler Schrodt, founder of the Electronic Gaming Federation (EGF), a US-based organisation that brings varsity esports programs to colleges around the world.
The EGF helps students and administrators develop their skills, organises competitive leagues and produces live broadcasts of matches, as well as original content. EGF helps host both online-only and live events.
Tyler explains: "We bring varsity esports into the campus and help universities with their processes. We organise and oversee programmes, and provide all the training and some of the staffing, and work with universities to help make their students the broadcasters.
"Promotion is a part of it. For some of our previous tournaments we have had front page promotion on Twitch, as well as coverage from the individual colleges," Tyler says. "We help them with marketing, putting up posters, reaching out to the community and so on.
"The US has a fanatical culture at a collegiate level. The University of Alabama and Auburn is one of the biggest rivalries in the US, anything with their name on it, regardless of what they compete in, will draw a massive following."