E-sports isn’t just a kids game anymore. There’s big money for the best

His father used to tell him that sitting in front of the computer, playing video games for hour after hour, was a waste of time.

So Cody Altman didn’t quite know what to think when a college from halfway across the country called to offer him a scholarship — for playing video games.

“Honestly,” he said, “I was skeptical.”

The young man from Anaheim changed his mind when he learned that Maryville University in St. Louis had an e-sports team with a coach, daily practices and league matches against other schools.

Two years later, Altman — who goes by “Walrus” in competition — found himself back in Southern California, seated with his teammates at a row of monitors on a high-tech stage, ready to do battle in the “League of Legends” college championship.

Several hundred fans came to watch, filling the stands, as Maryville faced the University of Toronto in the final match.

Players banged away at keyboards and chattered commands — “Go, go, go … hold … I’ve got two” — over bulky headsets. Above them, a giant screen showed the game action, with fantastical creatures flittering across a jungle landscape, hurling spears and bombs and shooting cannons.

“There’s the stun,” a play-by-play announcer bellowed. “There’s the CC chain coming out.”

Glitzy college tournaments represent the latest evidence that competitive gaming is big-time.

At the professional level, tournaments pay as much as $20 million in prize money, filling basketball arenas and drawing millions of viewers online. Team owners spend in excess of six figures to sign the best free-agent players.

But as e-sports continue to expand at a breakneck pace, they may have reached a wake-up moment.

“It’s this really interesting time where you have this industry that is growing but is still, at its core, made up of young gamers,” said Nick Geracie, who covers gaming for the HOWLA web site. “It’s like a boy trying to fit into a man’s body.”

Read more at LA Times.