Hundreds of gaming hours pay off with full ride eSports scholarship for Saskatoon tradesman

It turns out getting laid off might have been just the ticket for Travis Letwiniuk.

Travis Letwiniuk will be playing with the Harrisburg University eSports Varsity Team

Saskatoon's Travis Letwiniuk will be moving to Pennsylvania this summer, as he joins the Harrisburg University's eSports varsity team. (Submitted by Travis Letwiniuk )

It turns out getting laid off might have been just the ticket for Travis Letwiniuk. 

The 22-year-old had been working in the trades and sub-trades, but was never sure it was going to be a lifelong career.

So when he was laid off last year, he started putting more time into his gaming, playing Overwatch on PC.

"I was out of a job for like half a year, so I spent a lot of time playing that game and got even better at it at my main Heroes, which put me over the edge, I think."

The time he spent on gaming has paid off, with Letwiniuk getting an acceptance letter for the Harrisburg University eSports Varsity Team, with a scholarship that will cover his tuition, books and part of his housing.

"It's surreal," he said, of being flown out to try out for the Pennsylvania-based university team, followed by getting the acceptance later.

Climbing the ranks

Letwiniuk started seriously playing Overwatch on PC a couple of years ago, after being invited to try it with a few friends.

"I am super competitive, anything I play, I want to win at," he said, explaining that he ended up climbing the ranks, becoming a grand master, and then surpassing that level by cracking the top 500 out of the millions that play the game.

When he saw a post online about playing varsity eSports, he thought he should take a shot at it. He thought it would give him an opportunity to go to school, and take computer science-related courses, without accumulating a lot of debt.

Based on his ranking and play style in Overwatch, the university tapped him and 50 others to be flown out and compete in the final stage of tryouts, which led him to feeling confident about his chances.

Travis Letwiniuk's setup at home allows him to spend hours honing his game craft. (Submitted by Travis Letwiniuk)

Goals for World Cup and pros 

But after he didn't hear back from the university for longer than expected, his confidence was wavering.

"For a couple of days, I got super depressed that I didn't make it. Then I woke up one morning, and got the email," he said, recalling the excitement that fired him up, and had him waking up his girlfriend to share the news.

It's really nice to be able to go to school now and find out what I'm going to love doing for the rest of my life.- Travis Letwiniuk 

Friends' and family's reactions have ranged from happiness to excitement, to shock and surprise that gaming can open up such options, he said.

"Nobody really thought gaming would turn into anything, like years ago," he said. "You see streamers out there who are making hundreds of thousands of dollars per year, just because they play video games, and people like watching them."

Letwiniuk said he has high-end goals of making Team Canada and even being on the bench for the eSports' World Cup, but more than that, he's glad to be getting a chance to attend university and find a life-long career.

"If the option to go pro is there, I'll probably take it, but I do want to finish school first," he said. "It's really nice to be able to go to school now and find out what I'm going to love doing for the rest of my life."