College #esports took the world by storm in April 2015 when the first Heroes of the Dorm tournament debuted on ESPN in North America: the first time a college esports tournament had ever been broadcast live on ESPN. They returned a second time in 2016, bigger and better.
Teams from 482 universities competed in the Heroes of the Dorm tournament in 2016 and the top four also competed live on ESPN. Arizona State University awarded a housing scholarship to each player on their winning team, the first esports scholarship to be awarded by the university.
Blizzard put together a YouTube documentary, A New Hero, about the rise of esports and the decision to have a tournament at the college level. The idea was to get together a scene of players who didn't necessarily have the opportunities to go pro the regular way.
The prize pool offered the best incentive: full tuition for the rest of their undergraduate studies. This setup is preferable to both students, who enjoy gaming, and their parents, who don't have to foot a college bill anymore.
The world loves college sports and now esports is there to offer a new competition. The documentary touched on the fact that growing up, a lot of kids are told that video games are a waste of time. With the introduction of esports to the college scene, it normalizes video games as a sport worth partaking in.
Heroes of the Dorm was the first big college esports event to make it to ESPN, providing the catalyst which set off ESPN's esports section and putting money into it. In 2015 alone, over $65m in prizes was awarded for eSports tournaments. Even "classic" sports players are getting into it, with Shaquille O'Neal recently having purchased his own esports team.
eSports have long been ridiculed of a sort for not being "real" enough sports. But it takes the same amount of perseverance and dedication that physical sports do, not to mention hand and eye coordination and teamwork. Players practice day in and day out to perfect their craft and coordinate the team's movements. Hunter Pence compared it to basketball, creating the moves and passes that make great plays.
Twitter practically exploded when Heroes of the Dorm was broadcast, both from typical ESPN viewers who couldn't fathom why esports suddenly took up precious broadcast time, as well as viewers who didn't know what it was but couldn't pull their eyes from the excitement of the game. Whether you like it or not, esports is here to stay and only growing each year.
Blizzard recently unveiled their plans for an official esports league for Overwatch, Overwatch League. It's along the same lines of Heroes of the Dorm; while not not necessarily regulated to colleges, it's similar in that it's goal is to create more esports communities and provide them the means to excel.
I recommend watching the entire Heroes of the Dorm documentary. It's quite fascinating.