Members of a Penn State club might have missed the chance for a $30,000 scholarship this year and Penn State itself may have stood in their way.
Penn State’s Esports Club, formed by students seven years ago, is part of a larger movement, the club’s president Dylan Beal said. Esports is an umbrella term for competitive gaming leagues — usually with online, multiplayer focused games such as League of Legends (LoL).
“We focus on Overwatch, League of Legends, Hearthstone, Counterstrike, and fighting games… Esports is gaining huge traction over the last couple of years. Larger audiences, bigger prize pools, and its only going up from here,” Beal said.
He’s not lying. Prizes for competitions can reach millions of dollars. The 2016 League of Legends Worlds prize totaled $5.07 million, according to ESPN. Larger audiences and bigger prizes have convinced twelve Big Ten schools to participate in a trial League of Legends series on the Big Ten Network’s (BTN) online streaming service, BTN2Go. Penn State and Nebraska are the only two Big Ten schools who did not participate in the league.
A PSU Esports press release from January addressed the club’s inability to enter the league. “After contacting Penn State officials and Big Ten employees, we were told that Penn State did not sign off because they are very protective of their ‘brand’ and did not have the enough time to address us. Because this took place during the Rose Bowl, Penn State was too busy,” the release reads. “Penn State’s decision stopped our players from receiving a potential $30,000 in scholarships from Riot Games.” Riot Games is the creator of League of Legends.
Jeff Nelson, Penn State Athletics’ Assistant Director for Strategic Communications, said Penn State will continue to review and discuss with Penn State Esports, the Big Ten, and BTN about future opportunities for exposure and competition.
“For various reasons, including the use of our [logos], we ultimately decided that we were not in a position to participate at this time,” Nelson said.
Beal said the club has over 200 members and is growing every year. The main goal of the club is to grow Esports here in Happy Valley, but the club is partnered with Tespa, he said. Tespa is a network of collegiate Esports groups who host tournaments for gamers and awards scholarships — more than $1 million to date, according to its website.
“The club is really what you make of it. It can be a relaxed place to meet new friends or if you are driven, we will give you the tools to get into the competitive scene,” Beal said.