KILGORE — Many college athletes strive for success on the gridiron or the hard court.
Soon, Kilgore College students will enter a realm of digital competition, using quick fingers on game controllers and keyboards to outwit opponents on virtual battlefields.
KC’s new esports program is set to launch this fall semester with student and former Kilgore business owner Andy Taylor at the helm.
“I’m a student of business at KC right now,” Taylor said. “During my second semester, one of my professors asked me to do a project, and I decided to do a gaming tournament. I began planning and put on a tournament. During that, I realized the school could probably benefit from having an esports team. There wasn’t one in existence. I was part of the Game Club, and it was there that I began to work on it. I’d meet with people at school about getting it started up, and it’s progressed from there.”
Esports, short for “electronic sports,” are a form of organized, competitive video game tournaments. Esports events often involve individual players or teams of players who compete in a specific multiplayer game.
Players and teams train for competition by playing games and developing strategies to give them an edge against other players.
While it may sound like a glorified gaming party, esports is a big deal. A July 2018 Forbes article predicted the esports industry may generate more than $900 million for that single year. Revenue is generated from corporate sponsorships, advertising and ticket sales to esports events.
Collegiate-level esports are growing as well, driven in part by the fact many avid gamers are young people about to enter college or are enrolled.
A Wired.com article from January said almost 200 U.S. colleges offer scholarships for students who join their esports teams.
“There’s a huge wave that’s happening right now with esports,” Taylor said. “It’s impacting a lot of different industries. (Kilgore College) saw an opportunity there. We began to work on it, and they brought me on this summer to get the program rolling for this fall.”
Taylor said the KC esports group has registered with Tespa, a collegiate esports organization originally founded at the University of Texas at Austin. The organization has become nationwide and is sponsored by Blizzard Entertainment, a game development company behind “World of Warcraft,” “Overwatch” and “Hearthstone.”
Taylor said the KC group is a student-formed organization, but he hopes to register with the National Association for Collegiate Esports, a group that hosts varsity esports competitions.
The KC Game Club’s tournaments helped attract members to the new group and already are helping students attend college, a goal which the college’s esports team is working toward as well.
The most recent tournament awarded KC scholarships to five winners.
“I’ve been fielding emails from students who weren’t going to go to college but are now considering it because of esports,” Taylor said.
New members on the esports team can receive career counseling and learn about career options available to them in the growing industry.
“It’s not just players,” Taylor said.
“Just like traditional sports, there are broadcasters and trainers. Those are all facets of esports as well. All of the programs available at KC, there’s a place in the esports industry for all of the courses they offer.”
The esports industry has positions for a wide variety of students, from those studying kinesiology to those aiming to attend law school or to study journalism.
There’s also a natural tie-in for computer science students who want to learn how to build games of their own or those who study app development and computer programming.
Taylor said the creation of KC’s esports team is the end result of a lifelong dream.
“I’ve been a gamer my whole life. I always had a dream of making a career out of video games. Back in the 80s, that was laughable idea. Until recently, nobody thought it was possible to make a career out of video games.”