Tespa, organizers of the “Heroes of the Dorm” competitions broadcast on ESPN networks, announced a slew of new changes for its events designed to direct more scholarship money towards student gamers and encourage participation from more university campuses. Among the announcements:
- New leagues. Tespa’s events now include competitions in Overwatch, Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm, StarCraft II, World of Warcraft and Rocket League.
- Open membership. Previously, students had to compete in a Tespa league or go to a university with a Tespa chapter. This year, students at any North American university may compete, a move Tespa hopes will spur chapter creation.
- Six broadcasts a week, and on- and off-seasons for each game (Overwatch in the fall, for example, and Hearthstone or Heroes in the spring.)
- More money. Tespa tournaments will hand out more than $800,000 in scholarships and $200,000 in other prizes. Heroes of the Dorm winners already received full scholarships for the remainder of their college careers.
- In-game rewards. Tespa competitors in Blizzard Entertainment titles–all the games on the list but Rocket League–will earn in-game goodies such as Hearthstone card packs or Heroes of the Storm loot chests by progressing in standing with Tespa.
In a simultaneous statement, Georgia State University announced that it will join two collegiate gaming leagues, the National Association of Collegiate eSports (NACE, which has 33 programs) and the new Georgia Esports League (GEL), which launches next month. GSU will become the latest university to award scholarships, practice facilities and other varsity-team perks to its gamers, joining such campuses as University of California, Irvine; Western Kentucky University and the University of Utah.
“One of the things we’re focused on is to help grow collegiate teams in the esports space,” said Adam Rosen. He and twin brother Tyler founded Tespa when they were students at the University of Texas at Austin. “We want competing for universities to be an aspirational thing. A lot of times universities are a little bit scared of it. It’s a risky endeavor. We’re attempting to provide assurances that our leagues will be around for multiple years, and formats will be consistent. We strongly feel it’s going to be the best year ever for esports.”
Tespa’s first year in 2010 consisted of an informal group of approximately 30 gamers from UT who showed up to compete in StarCraft II. Today it encompasses more than 65,000 members, with 220 chapters at more than 1200 universities.
“If we were to look at Tespa’s size now and compare it to a Greek organization, we’d be in the top 10 in the world for number of chapters,” Tyler Rosen said. “When Adam and I founded Tespa, we had this dream of elevating gaming to the same levels as traditional sports on campus. Last year, we had more tournaments than ever before.”
Georgia State University statements say the university sees esports as a way for its students to not only compete, but build skills and provide opportunities to learn concepts in broadcasting, production, coaching, student management, game development and marketing.
“The skills developed by eSports-interested students are the very skills most needed for success in the 21st century economy, including collaborative soft skills and computer coding,” said David Cheshier, director of the Georgia State Creative Media Industries Institute, in a written statement. “We see this initiative as building essential links to emerging creative careers in animation, 3D and immersive world creation, and other media industries.”
More than 90 million viewers watched esports finals in 2016, the university said.
“Esports are both the most rapidly growing field of sports and also one of the best ways to get students interested in technology,” said Andrew Greenberg, president of the Georgia Game Developers Association. GGDA sponsors the new Georgia league.
“Georgia State has become one of the first schools to recognize the link between eSports and academic achievement. We are delighted both with its role as one of the Georgia Esports League’s inaugural members and the opportunities it is providing its students.”
Tyler Rosen said when the company first got started–even when its Heroes of the Dorm tournament was first broadcast on ESPN–colleges were hesitant.
“At first, a lot of the universities ignored their teams,” he said. “But what we saw hosting that tournament year over year was that universities were supporting their teams: celebrating on social media, giving them facilities they needed. Arizona State University [winners the 2016 Heroes of the Dorm competition] brought them back to campus, paraded them at a baseball game, and gave them full housing scholarships. That’s a really great trend that we’ve seen growing.”