Scholarships for Video Games

Posted by on Saturday, 10th January, 2015

Recently the University of Pikeville in Kentucky became the second higher-learning institution in the US to recognize video games as an official sport. From WYMT Mountain News:

“It’s actually becoming a worldwide trend,” Parsons said. “This game is five on five competitive play. It takes skill, practice and a lot of teamwork.”

Parsons said this dedication to provide various types of technology to students is an obvious extension of what their university is all about.

“I think there are going to be a lot of students, both nationwide and international, who are going to look at our university who wouldn’t have before,” Parsons said.

I’m not sure how I feel about this.

On the one hand, of course, it’s excellent that video games are getting the respect of other worthwhile pastimes. On the other hand, as I’ve often said, there’s something unsettling to me about seeing an elite grind-based mentality emerge, in which young people dedicate themselves to video games to the exclusion of (most) everything else.

Stephen King said: “Life is not a support system for art. It’s the other way around.” I think that applies to video games as well, and something about the professionalization of gaming bothers me. I feel like it’s inverting the proper balance that ought to happen between fun and life.

Of course, taking this line of thought to its logical conclusion would require me to challenge professional sports of all kinds, and while I don’t care about those sports, I’m not ready to say that FIFA should not exist, or that the NBA should be disbanded. On the other hand, I am bothered by young people (including some of my students) who choose — or in some cases are coerced — to spend hours and hours and hours in athletic training, to the point where they have no time (and little interest) in other academic, social, cultural, or artistic pursuits.

It’s complicated, no doubt. What do you think?

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