The Current

Do your kids play Fortnite? Here's how it could win them a college scholarship

As esports grow exponentially in popularity, young players are starting to take advantage of the financial opportunities that lie in becoming a professional gamer. And some universities are starting to offer scholarships to attract them.

Ohio university offering scholarship of up to $4,000 US for esports players

Gamers play Fortnite against Twitch streamer and professional gamer Tyler "Ninja" Blevins in Las Vegas on Apr. 21. 230 people participated in front of an audience of 700, with $50,000 US on the line. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Originally published on May 24, 2018.

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Being good at Fortnite, the wildly popular video game, might land you a university scholarship.

Ashland University in Ohio is actively recruiting players, offering them up to $4,000 US if they join its collegiate esports team.

Joshua Buchanan, the coach of Ashland's esports team, told The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti that there have been about 1,500 applicants for the scholarship from all over the world, including Canada.

"It's competitive. People want to watch it," he said. "People can form communities and just really enjoy watching and playing the game together.

"If it's something like basketball or football, where they have all those traits, I think why not include it in athletics and offer a scholarship for it."

The esports team has a great view of the football field as they practice their skills at Ashland University, Ohio. (Submitted by Joshua Buchanan)

The scholarship isn't a full ride — tuition at Ashland is $21,000 US, while expenses can push that cost to $30,000 US — but Buchanan said one of the benefits is the chance to game competitively while you get a degree that gives you something to fall back on.

There's space for about 20 gamers, but unlike other sports scholarships, Buchanan can't go to big games to see their talent. Applicants send him clips of them playing, or direct him to websites where their stats are collected.

The goal of Fortnite is simple: kill everyone else and be the last one standing. Gamers land on a virtual island with 99 other people on it. Often, you join up with your friends who are playing at the same time. You then build structures, and find resources and weapons. 

"A hundred people drop down on this island and only one person or one team gets to win," Buchanan told Tremonti. "You go into a game not expecting to win and when you do … it feels amazing."

'I'm living the dream'

In March, Toronto rapper Drake played Fortnite with its most successful player, Tyler Blevins, who plays under the name Ninja. Their game broke records on YouTube and the game-streaming platform Twitch. Ninja attracts huge audiences on the platform and claims to make $500,000 US a month.

Similarly, Tim Commandeur turned his gaming pastime into an income.

The 25-year-old Canadian plays under the name HoneyBee, but his game of choice isn't Fortnite — it's a fighting game called Injustice 2.

Tim Commandeur, who plays Injustice 2 under the name HoneyBee, said he makes about $5,000 a month. (Submitted by Tim Commandeur)

He quit his day job seven months ago and makes his living solely from gaming, through a combination of sponsorship, YouTube, and Patreon, a site where people pay Commandeur a monthly fee to see his content and get tutorials.

Commandeur said he makes about $5,000 a month, and now owns his own condo.

"I'm essentially living the dream, which is being able to do what exactly what I love to do and being independent," he told Tremonti.

He said that even four years ago, the esports scene for his game wasn't big enough to support professional gamers, but the explosion in the esports economy has opened up new career paths.

Listen to the full conversation at the top of this page.

Produced and written by The Current's Willow Smith.