METRO DETROIT — Students looking to break into the world of esports are invited to attend a meeting with esports coaches and players at an upcoming program known as The Esports Scholarship Initiative.
The event is hosted by AoE Esports and is designed to share opportunities regarding numerous college esports teams, most notably in regard to potential scholarships.
“This kind of makes it more of a tangible experience for the parents and kids pursuing scholarships,” said Harry Greenspan, the co-founder of AoE Esports. “Some parents don’t even realize this is a real sport in college or how much they can get in scholarships. This will not only talk about the basics, but go into the specifics about what is out there and how much people can get.”
The event will take place 5-7 p.m. Jan. 19 at Troy College and Career High School, 1522 E. Big Beaver Road, in Troy. Registration is free and can be completed online at aoeesports.com. There are 200 spots available.
“This is for students who aren’t 7 feet tall or can’t run a fast 40-yard dash,” said Greenspan. “You just need good critical thinking and good dexterity. I used to be a noob and not be able to tell the difference between these games. People will get scholarships based on what games they play and what position they perform in each game. Someone who plays Overwatch may be a tank or may be a healer, and that is what they can get scholarships in if a team is looking for a particular role.”
Nathan Benton will be among the coaches meeting prospective players at the event and is currently a coach at Cleary University. He also used to be employed with AoE Esports.
“I’ve been working in esports in some capacity since 2019. Seeing how much it’s grown in the last few years is crazy. The biggest thing holding it back is that some people just don’t know about it. That’s why events like this are important, because they get these opportunities out there,” he said. “The big four games in competition right now are League of Legends, Overwatch 2, Super Smash Brothers and Rocket League. Basically, every school will have those games in competition. Other games, like Call of Duty, Valorant, and some sports titles, are also pretty common.”
The event will feature coaches and representatives from local universities, including the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Oakland University, Lawrence Technological University, Central Michigan University, Cleary University and Rochester University. Attendees will have the opportunity to engage with coaches and gain firsthand knowledge about the various types and amounts of esports scholarships available, as well as the criteria for qualification.
“It varies from school to school. Some schools will offer students who are appropriately talented a full ride,” said Benton. “The average school is probably offering $2,000 to $5,000 a year scholarships. At Cleary, for instance, we can offer up to 50% tuition, which is about $12,000 a year.”
“High GPAs and whether they live in or out of the state are factors in how much can be offered,” added Greenspan.
AoE Esports is the official provider of esports for the Troy School District and describes itself as being dedicated to fostering talent and creating opportunities for aspiring gamers.
“This is the first time we’ve held an event like this,” said Greenspan. “We’ve had smaller events. … Many of our members have gone on to be coaches or players, and they have gone to specific schools, but this is the first time we’ve gathered everyone together.”
Greenspan said that esports in general is still fairly new, so the industry and culture are still being established, describing it as “an exciting time.”
“This is an emerging sport. More than 1,000 schools across the country offer scholarships, and that number is only growing as universities realize they want to get more of these students at their institutions,” he said. “We are an organization for individuals or teams to come and play esports in structured leagues or teams or run a club or clinic. We are similar to a tennis club. … Players work like players in every other sport. They meet up and practice and work on strategies, just like any other sport. We’ll have another event in the summer where coaches will come in and watch players play and see what they can do.”
Benton hopes that any students who think that they can take their gaming to a competitive level will check out the event.
“My parents always told me, ‘you’ll never make a living playing video games,’” said Benton. “Now you kind of can.”