GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Grand Rapids gamers are gearing up for the area’s first major esports tournament happening this weekend at Celebration Cinema Grand Rapids North.
The tournament’s host, West Michigan Sports Commission, is calling it “Grand Rapids Rift Clash,” where nine colleges along with East Kentwood High School have teams competing for a championship title that comes with a grand prize of $2,500.
Esports is the broad term for competitive video gaming, as players compete in a virtual world that can score them real-life opportunities like college scholarships.
“We have 27 (players) on our roster and 11 of them are new to Aquinas this year. They were recruited for esports,” said Adam Antor, head coach of Aquinas College’s esports team. “Each of them receiving an athletic scholarship for our esports program.”
Antor said esports programs are becoming increasingly popular at the high school and college level.
“Going into the fall, we are going to double the amount of college programs in the state of Michigan that are offering college scholarships. It will go from six to at least 12,” Antor said.
University of Michigan’s esports team will be eligible for scholarships beginning next year, something many of the longtime gamers on the team never dreamt possible.
“It just felt so cool because I’m not athletic, but it feels great to represent the University of Michigan,” said freshman gamer Max Nolan.
Universities aren’t the only ones getting in on the game as the esports industry continues to boom worldwide.
“To put it in perspective of the growth, by 2022 there will be 645 million esports viewers and the Super Bowl only had 99 million,” said Katy Tigchelaar of the West Michigan Sports Commission.
Tigchelaar hopes this weekend’s tournament will be the first of many, as her team wants to make Grand Rapids a destination for esports events.
More information about when and how you can attend this weekend’s tournament as a viewer can be found online.