Video games are one of today’s greatest sources of entertainment. Whether you are trying to reach the next level of Super Mario Bros. or waiting for the newest version of Grand Theft Auto to come out, you understand the thrill that video games can bring.

Video games can help improve coordination, form new social connections, and reduce stress. But can the games be seen as competitive sport?

eSports, which stands for electronic sports, involve multiplayer video games among professional players. eSport events have prizes that can reach millions of dollars at the highest levels.

In fall 2018, U of T will offer a scholarship for students who have a strong academic background and a passion for eSports. The Victor Xin Scholarship in eSports, named after the U of T alumnus who provided the donation for this award, will be available for full-time undergraduate students in the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering.

Xin graduated from the Division of Engineering Science and had started the first eSports club at U of T. In 2008, he helped organize the first student-run eSports tournament held on a campus in North America, known as the University of Toronto Cyber Games.

Xin is now a managing partner at the investment firm, Athena Capital Partners, and is the chair of U of T Engineering’s Alumni Mentorship Program.

Xin believes that eSports will highlight new forms of leadership in the university community. In an interview with U of T Engineering News, Xin stated that “we should reward leadership attributes no matter how they manifest themselves… I want to help students who pursue leadership and personal development but go about it a different way.”

The popularity of eSports has skyrocketed within the last five years. In the next 10 years, experts predict that all the top-selling multiplayer video game franchises will have eSports elements in their products.

The money generated from competitive gaming has also grown rapidly. For example, ‘The International 2015’ — the biggest Defense of the Ancients 2 (DOTA2) competition in the world — carried a $18,429,613 USD prize pool.

DOTA2 is a multiplayer online game where two groups of five players battle and destroy the opposing team’s large structure called ‘the Ancient’. Each player on the winning team of the competition received $6.6 million dollars. The prize total was the highest in eSports history, and the prize value is expected to grow in the coming years. Global eSports revenues are estimated to exceed $1 billion by 2019 according to CNN. Other sources expect these revenues to surpass $1 billion this year.

The most popular eSports genres include real-time strategy (RTS), first-person shooters (FPS), multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA), and fighting games.

RTS games, like the StarCraft series and League of Legends, are usually war games that require positioning units of an army across a map where players gather resources and build bases. FPS gamers control a single character and see the game from a first-person point of view.

eSport competitions have new versions of these games where each player has different skills and areas of expertise, such as sniping. Popular FPS games include the Call of Duty series and Halo. MOBA games are descendents of RTS games where players can meet one another online and carry out attacks against an opposing team’s main base with button presses or keystrokes.

The Victor Xin Scholarship will help U of T Engineering students who enjoy video gaming to pursue eSports and to continue gaming in a community of similar-minded people. The eSports club at U of T offers a community for gamers at the university. Xin felt this way when he was an undergraduate and wanted to design a club where gaming was celebrated.

“There are trailblazers on campus who are rallying a different set of students to build campus organizations focused on an alternative way of learning to lead and succeed in life,” said Xin. “Society may not recognize them yet — but we shouldn’t let them fall through the cracks.”

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