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The rise of Esports

The Esports industry is starting to gain popularity around the world.
Published: Mar. 3, 2022 at 4:36 PM CST
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CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (KFVS) - The video game industry is a juggernaut in the entertainment business, it generated $155 billion in 2020.

But beyond the money, video games and esports gaming have created other things like career opportunities, college scholarships and what some refer to as the new Starbucks.

At Southeast Missouri State University, the Esports Club has become the most popular club on campus. It’s 600 members strong and boasts a state-of-the-art place for gamers to hone their skills.

“We have students here that compete competitively on a daily basis and we have competitions almost every day,” Ricky Reed, Southeast’s esports coordinator, said.

And those skills get put to the test. Southeast has several esports teams that compete almost daily, games like Call of Duty, going mouse-to-mouse against other schools in what has become a team, just like basketball and soccer.

“I started playing when I was, like, five.”

Logan Dunlap is like most college students these days, growing up playing video games, and for him, when choosing a college, its esports arena was a high priority.

“At first, it was just a thing to do and then we started to understand that we could do this, a team, and it was a good thing.”

Eric Redinger at Southeast Missouri State said a few years ago, they were behind the times when it comes to an esports arena on campus, but now, it’s a recruiting draw.

“When students visit a campus, they may be looking for a great workout facility or they may be looking for something like this, an esports arena where they can compete.”

The students say their esports teams get the same benefits as other student athletes: teamwork, sportsmanship and a drive to get better.

The world of video gaming has caught the attention of entrepreneurs like John Truitt. He’s part of a group of investors looking to build something like this in Cape Girardeau, a gaming spot for anyone to sign on, link up and battle it out in the virtual world.

“We hope to work with area schools, with their esports teams, and have a place where they can practice esports as well as the other parts of gaming, like announcing and production,” he said.

Truitt said gaming centers are popping up all over the world and the U.S. is behind the curve.

“It’s a lot like coffee shops in the ‘70s when Starbucks started, and these centers can be very profitable,” he explained.

For a lot of parents, the idea of their kids playing video games for hours at a time is not ideal. Truitt thought the same thing until he found out his son is good enough to go pro. Yes, a professional gamer.

“I found out he was ranked 30th in the world on a game that millions played and it changed by mindset,” he said.

There are professional video game leagues out there just like the NFL and FIFA, and in some cases, watching professional gamers compete could be likened to the Superbowl.

“You can make six figures, all the way up to making millions of dollars, depending on your level of pro; and a lot of students are realizing you can get scholarships and you can look at this as a career path,” Truitt said.

Obviously, only a small number of players are going pro, and parents have to decide what amounts to an unhealthy amount of gaming, but it changed Truitt’s mindset. If his son had a great pitching arm, he wouldn’t mind him practicing for hours a day.

As for the Relentless Contenders Esports Arena, Truitt said they hope to have it open sometime this summer.

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