Scholarships cashing in on e-gaming tournaments

Scholarships cashing in on e-gaming tournaments

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Parents, if your kids are obsessed with playing Fortnite, there’s now potential to cash in on the craze.

That includes big money tournaments and tutoring gigs that pay top dollar to college scholarships!

The game is actually quite simple. It’s a 1 versus 100 free-for-all, battle royal game. You gather guns to attack other people and resources like wood from trees to be able to build walls and ramps around you.

The goal is to stay alive. If you're the last player standing at the end, you win.

The maker of Fortnite says nearly 80 million people worldwide played the game in August this year - some for fun, others for big money.

Professional players are winning tournaments with cash prizes in the millions. They’re also broadcasting live gameplay online.

It's free to watch but fans send these players tips that add up fast, and schools are taking notice.

“It’s very fast pace and it’s very rewarding,” said Cray Pennison, President of Ole Miss E-Gaming Club.

The E-Gaming Club at Ole Miss travels to tournaments to battle other schools.

Earlier this month they played SEC rival Mississippi State in their own version of the Egg Bowl.

“The slogan fits it perfectly, ‘same rivalry but new game,’” Pennison said. ‘It’s just another way for us to compete against them and beat them, of course.” Actually, Mississippi State won that one.

But Fortnite fans at dozens of mostly smaller liberal arts colleges are winning in a different way with e-gaming scholarships to play on varsity teams.

It works just like a football or basketball scholarship, and Pennison expects Ole Miss and universities nationwide will eventually have their own varsity e-gaming programs.

“It’s just going to become a standard program, where it’s like ‘hey do you have a football team, do you have an e-sports program?’” Pennison said.

Because of the potential scholarship and tournament payouts, players want to get better.

Logan Eschenburg, who goes by his gamer name Bucke, gets paid to help them cash in.

“I know more people who are playing video games than some sports right now,” Eschenburg said.

Eschenburg is a video game tutor who charges $40 an hour for his advice.

“People want to get better, and I know how to teach people how to get better, and people love Fortnite and people want to win,” Eschenburg said. “And people will pay money to win, that’s just how it is.”

Get this – he’s only 15 years old! He already plays on a professional E-Gaming team, the Pittsburg Knights, and hopes to get one of those college e-gaming scholarships one day.

Colin Zazzara, also 15, hopes to snag one too.

“That’s my dream job,” Zazzara said. “That is my dream job because it’s basically doing something that you love.”

Zazzara’s parents know his love for video games isn’t going away anytime soon. They would love to see that time pay off with a scholarship, but they’re apprehensive about the long term.

“To get paid to go to school is fine, but it kind of scares me to think that people do this as a living,” said his mom Terry Zazzara.

But with millions of players and millions of dollars up for grabs, it might be time for parents to get in the game.

“My husband and I, we always have wanted just well-rounded kids who lead happy lives, contribute to society and are good people,” Terry said.

“And if that’s professional e-gaming?” asked WMC5.

“I guess... I don't know, I'm struggling with it still,” Terry said.

WMC5 reached out to several Mid-South colleges and universities to see if any offer e-gaming scholarships just yet.

The closest school we found was Maryville University outside St. Louis, who actually sent scholarship reps to Memphis just a few weeks ago.

Click here to see a list of 17 colleges with e-sports programs.

Forbes and Variety recently wrote about the grown popularity of esports scholarships. Click here, here, and here to read the Forbes articles and here to read the Variety article.

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