There's a tournament this weekend at Fifth Third Arena. It's expected to draw players from several universities, but they won't be competing in any commonly recognized sport. They'll play video games, and event organizers hope to earn some respect for eSports.
Games at UC's Fifth Third Arena usually involve basketballs or volleyballs. This weekend, however, the play will be with magic spells, swords, and guns, on computers.
The All Midwest Collegiate Invitational is expected to draw about 500 competitors and spectators for games like League of Legends, Super Smash Brothers, and Hearthstone.
Tournaments like this are common on the East and West coasts, but Stelanie Tsirlis says that's inconvenient for game players in the Midwest.
“They have to travel out there. They have to buy the plane ticket, the ticket to get into the event itself.”
Tsirlis is a senior at Miami University and a gamer herself. She's also the chief marketing officer for AllMid, which is a collection of game players from her school, UC, Xavier, Ohio State, and others.
Together, they're out to play and to earn some respect for their sport.
There will be prizes, both cash and game credits. Tsirlis says some of the games pit individuals head-to-head, and others are for teams.
“What I like the most about the invitational this weekend is that our League of Legends tournament on the competitive side has the actual collegiate teams from all the colleges that are participating.”
Tsirlis says there are even some colleges in the U.S. that are offering scholarships for gamers.
“There aren’t many,” she admits.
“I know that there are some universities that support eSports as club sports. But to have an actual varsity team is kind of rare.”
Tsirlis says she hopes this weekend's invitational will show universities that eSports are legitimate and a big deal.
“People are invested. People are interested. And the eSports industry itself is about to explode. It’s a baby industry. I think it would be smart for any university to hop on that bandwagon and start recognizing any eSport as an actual sport and start supporting those students who play.”
Like other collegiate athletes, gamers can turn pro. But let's face it, not every competitor goes on to be an all-star. And not everyone at the invitational is there to compete. Some are just there for the love of the game.
Some aren't there to play at all. Tsirlis says gaming, like its more physical counterparts, can also be a spectator sport.
“I actually find that more people enjoy watching these games than playing them. And I think it might be because of how competitive they are. It’s very exciting to see people rallying behind a game and finding their favorite players or teams and supporting them.”
The AllMid Collegiate Invitational starts Saturday morning. Finals are Sunday. While it won't be televised, it will be live-streamed.