ALBANY, NY - A new type of sport is emerging, that is slated to become a $1 billion dollar industry. Competitive video games are no longer a huge waste of time like some parents may think. Video games may earn your child a free ride to college.
In front of the computers inside Schenectady's Urban Co-Works building is where you'll find of the the best students athletes in the Capital Region. "I wake up in the morning, do stuff, get home play video games. That's my life, that's how it's always been," Tyler Fretto stated.
The skills run naturally through Fretto's fingers. At 14 years old, he is the youngest member of Gaming Insomniacs, a semi-pro E-Sports League.
Tyler's mother Toni said, "I know it's not football , it's not baseball, but it's the up and coming new thing."
It's a passion she fully supports. She added, "Well, he's good at a lot of things, but he is very good a video games."
Tyler's coaches agree. "They mentor him," said Toni.
"You gotta know when something is coming around the corner. You gotta pre-fire, calculate time it takes. All of these things are going on in your head," Tyler explained.
Tyler's team the Saratoga Misfits outsmart and outplay their opponents. They boast some impressive stats in one of the most popular games, Call of Duty.
"I think within five years every school will have gaming competition, gaming teams, just like they have iintercollegiate athletic teams," explained Dan Coonan the President and CEO of the Eastern College Athletic Conference.
As video games go varsity the ECAC is setting the stage in Albany, hosting what is slated to be the largest collegiate esport event in the northeast, at the Albany Capital Center. Their event will be held on March 30-31, 2019.
Coonan stated, "It will have the look and feel of a major esports event. Huge big screen. Screens everywhere.
The event will feature multi-player games like, Overwatch, League of Legends and Fortnite. Esports is more than just fun and game for the players. Gamers can earn some serious cash through sponsorships or scholarships to attend college.
"It's eclipsing so many of the athletic events. Some of these things are as big as the Super Bowl," Coonan described.
Schools are taking note. "It's the type of students they want, stem students, smart students," Coonan said.
Students like Tyler are already ahead of the game. "If I get them to want me, I'll be it. So I'm doing things already to get into college" he said.
Siena, UAlbany and RPI has been quick to create ESport Teams.
Suny Canton has an entire program dedicated to competitive gaming.
"The Univerisities that understand that will be further ahead," Coonan added.
With an estimated 60 schools and counting offering ESport Scholarships ranging anywhere from $500-$20,000 to lure elite athletes.
"Well I have one son in college. So anytime anyone wants to give me money for college, I think that's great," Toni exclaimed.
And that's a big win for Tyler.
Siena's VP of Athletics told News10 they are having serious discussions about expanding ESports at their school. Currently they are looking at enrollment numbers and data to form a proposal.
SUNY Canton has an entire program dedicated to ESports. The schools also offers scholarship related to ESports. You can find out more information on their website, SUNY Canton.
For more information on which schools are offering scholarships in New York State and around the country check out the list of links below on each school's program.
ESport Scholarship Resources:
You can also find a list of schools that currently have ESport teams at their institution on the NACESport School Directory .