The University of Central Missouri has signed 27 students to participate in UCM Esports for spring 2020.

Ryan Young, Meadville, is one of 27 University of Central Missouri (UCM) students to receive an Esports Scholarship from the university.

According to a press release from the university, there is a growing level of interest in the highly competitive arena of Esports and as a result, the University of Central Missouri has signed 27 students to participate in UCM Esports for spring 2020.

Students from many different academic disciplines turned out for the signing event in December to formally document their intention to join UCM Esports, including Young, a junior physical education major. Young and his teammates will each receive a $500 scholarship for the spring 2020 semester to participate in esports.

Steven Shattuck, assistant professor in the School of Computer Science and Mathematics, organized and launched the university’s first-ever esports team during the fall 2019 semester. While getting this program off the ground was a learning experience, he said it was fun for all who participated, and interest is continually growing.

“We had hundreds of applicants, and that was just all in-house. We are now starting to get people applying from other places,” Shattuck said, noting that about 200 potential freshmen, nationwide, have expressed interest in enrolling at UCM in order to participate in esports.

The startup of UCM Esports took place on a small scale, but with the expansion this spring, there is an opportunity to add more games that are of interest to team members. One team is selected for each of three different games.

“Last semester, we only had one game. It was Overwatch,” Shattuck said. “This semester, we’re doing Overwatch, Rocket League and League of Legends. We have 27 scholarships this semester, so we are getting there. By fall we are hoping to have 40 scholarships.”

Shattuck said the fall 2019 Overwatch team participated in a national collegiate tournament but lost to DePaul University as it was making a run for the finals.

“We ended up going over .500 for the year, which is pretty good for a first-team,” he said.

Shattuck added students who participate in UCM Esports are being challenged to do their best. Much like students involved in other collegiate sports, they are encouraged to study videos that will help them to learn more about their strengths and weaknesses, and how they can improve. Careful attention to player development will contribute to the team’s success in the future, he said.

“We had 15 team members last semester, and eight of them have returned. It’s not just about academics, because they have to have at least a 3.0-grade point average, but we do look for improvement because it’s a competitive team,” Shattuck said.

Shattuck noted that UCM was the second public university in Missouri to create its own esports team.

Esports provides an opportunity for competitive, organized electronic gaming involving individuals who play the same popular games that they enjoy on their home systems. Competitions involving programs such as Overwatch, League of Legends and Rocket League can take place on campus, but at the highest level, this could mean arena- style play where participants can be watched in action via a streaming video service such as Twitch.

Similar to collegiate sports teams, which follow guidelines established by a member-led organization such as the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), esports also has its own organization to champion its growth and development on college campuses, according to the press release.