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Butler University investing in its Esports future as popularity grows

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Posted at 7:46 PM, Jan 30, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-31 08:13:18-05

INDIANAPOLIS — More young adults are choosing to pursue a career in ESports, better known as competitive video games, and more schools are investing in its future.

And unlike what your parents told you growing up, you can make money playing video games.

"Just like our traditional teams compete in basketball, tennis, you name it, we compete in different video games titles like League of Legends and Rocket League," Nathan Duke said.

Duke is a professor and the manager of the Esports program and facility operations at Butler University.

Butler's program started back in 2017, and it's offered as a minor to students.

Sports Tech HQ is a local nonprofit that just started partnering with Butler's Esports Park. Their goal is to build Indiana's brand as a sports tech destination while inspiring and facilitating innovation.

Sports Tech HQ hope to to create an elite talent pipeline. Just like other collegiate sports, players compete against other schools.

"Who doesn't want to be doing anything with video games? I am literally living my childhood dream and that's kind of how I got into everything," Noah Blacha said.

Blacha is a junior at Butler and minors in ESports.

"A lot of being able to bring in the entertainment value and get that viewership that normal sports has is through our production. We have to do a lot with lights, lasers, audios, things like that in order to grab people's attention," Blacha said.

Blacha plays NBA 2K. As an e-athlete, he says he doesn't have to deal with the vertical challenges the sport requires.

"I love basketball, love watching basketball, can't play it," Blacha said. "My main position is center even though I'm short. It's ironic."

Blacha has made pretty decent money playing video games, which needs to happen to convince his mom it could be a sustainable way of living.

"I won a couple wagers and winning money, she was like oh you can make money off of this," Blacha said.

To make money, gamers essentially place wagers when they play. When you are really good, like a professional athlete, sponsorships and merchandise come into play.

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Turning childhood dreams into reality is what Butler is trying to accomplish.

"It means so much to be able to see the opportunities and doors that we can open for these students to help get them the hands on experience and having the partners in the area that want to collaborate with us on that — it just means everything," Duke said.

Butler will host the Big East Esports championship in March.

As of right now, Esports is only a minor at the University.

Sports Tech HQ’s presence at Butler’s Esports Park will include coworking space and collaboration

The National Association of Collegiate Esports says there are more than 170 schools with over 5,000 student e-athletes.

RELATED: Partnership connecting veterans to Butler University esports