IMAGE: esports

"I started in elementary school. I got my first Xbox in like 2008." "I remember the days of like 'hey it's midnight, you need to be in bed," said Rob Izbicki, a member of Northwood University's varsity Esports team.

Those days are over, because these college students are gaming for more than just fun; they’re playing for scholarship money.

Just a few years ago it might have sounded like a pipedream. But at Northwood University in Midland, it’s a reality.

“Honestly the best experience is I’m coming to school to just do something I love. I was planning on taking the year off and now I’m here going to get a nice business degree,” said Esports team member Brady Linton.

Esports are electronic sports, it’s competitive video gaming and it’s viewed just like a traditional sport.

Most Esports are played on a team, and to win, players need to use strategy and ability.

And not just anyone can be on the team, Northwood’s Head Coach scouts his talent.

“This is very like a traditional sport. I’m scouting. A lot of high schools in Michigan have high school Esports clubs and teams. That’s where I really pick my talent from. I go watch them in person during a practice,” said Esports head coach Cody Elsen.

And at a practice is where he found and recruited Rob Izbicki.

Rob is a freshman majoring in cyber security, and he’s from Elkhart Indiana.

“People in Michigan do the hand thing. I’m right here. I didn’t actually plan on coming here until coach showed up and was like ‘hey, I’m interested,” Izbicki said.

His specialty is team-based shooter: Overwatch.

“It’s very competitive. The synergies needed is through the roof. Everybody needs to be working with each other,” explained Izbicki.

That’s why the team is practicing, preparing for the season, where they’ll play against other university teams.

“We play teams from California, Florida. There’s no restrictions because it’s online. We do have some in-person tournaments as well,” Elsen told TV5.

And to show how seriously Northwood is about Esports, they just completed a new gaming facility that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

It’s an investment, not only into this rapidly growing industry, but into student recruitment.

"At the end of the day it's a lot of students that wouldn't have a chance to be part of a varsity sport. And also, they're getting scholarships that kids might not have gone to college," Elsen said.

Copyright 2019 WNEM (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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