At GameLab this year we got to sit down with Robert Morris University's Kurt Melcher, who has set up a collegiate esports program at the university, to talk more about esports not at this level, and firstly we asked him what kind of skills his program teaches.
"So we hired a coaching staff and we asked them to go find the best players they could find, and awarded athletic scholarships, similar amounts as we do for our traditional sports," he explained. "The coaching staff was able to find the top 0.2% of all players in North America, which are like Challenger to Master tier and some Diamond tier players, and bring them in to compete in our program."
"I think our mission is two-part - one to make them the best player that they can be in-game, and also to help them build character-wise, so what does it mean to be part of an athletic team. It means you have to be responsible, you have to be punctual, you have to be a good teammate, you have to be able to take direction from a coach, which are all things which I think help you after you graduate, because you're going to go into the workforce and those are the same kind of things you're going to have to do, right. You're going to have to work in a group setting, you're going to have a boss, so I think athletics really is a value-add, whether it's soccer, football, or esports - that I think is the benefit to students."
When we asked about Melcher's own personal work with Intersport, though, he revealed to us why exactly esports is so popular these days with brands.
"Intersport is a Chicago-based company that is a traditional sports marketing and media production company," he said. "They do a lot surrounding collegiate athletics [...] so they have a particular interest in esports as well. So I work with Intersport to help market esports, to sort of bring light to collegiate esports and help brands understand what esports are and how they can get involved, because it's sort of a... it's a demographic that brands and advertisers want to sort of hit, because it's a millenial, they're generally pretty smart, and they generally come from a high household income."
Do you think collegiate esports needs to get more attention than it currently does?