Paying for college one video game at a time

Lupita Echeverria, Reporter

Esports has opened a new realm of possibility for seniors Bailey Klemmensen and Parker Penn. Klemmensen and Penn signed to Illinois Wesleyan University’s Esports team on scholarships this past winter.

Esports is an organized form of competition using video games for professional players and teams. Colleges are not only starting to have teams, but are also offering scholarships for talented students all over the country.

Klemmensen has been playing video games since 2010, and began receiving collegiate offers for Fortnite in October 2018.

“I think I’m most excited for just being in a new space,”  Klemmensen said. “I get to play something that I’m good at, that I love. But I’m not burnt out on it.”

Klemmensen plans to major in Biology on a pre-med track with a possible minor in Esports marketing.

Penn, on the other hand, intends to major in computer science. Penn has been playing video games since 2011 and recently got in contact with the Esports coach at IWU about joining the team.

Wesleyan’s Esports scholarship is for $2,000, the same amount for a baseline academic scholarship. With this scholarship, students are allowed to apply for additional scholarships as well.

“When I told people I’m going to Wesleyan, their first question is if I’m playing golf,” Penn said. “I looked there to play golf originally, and I talked to that golf coach for quite some time. It was kind of a shocker to tell relatives about this.”

The National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE) was founded in 2016, so it is no surprise that many people are unfamiliar with its existence.

“It (response) has not been negative, it’s been a lot of ‘what is this?’ and ‘I’ve never heard of this,’” Penn said. “I’ve got a lot of those questions and had to explain them to my family. They are slowly getting it, but it’s so new, not a lot of people get it. I don’t even get it, so it’s hard to explain it to people who don’t understand video games.”

Because of some misconceptions surrounding the scholarship, Klemmensen’s friends have been skeptical about the legitimacy of signing to an Esports team.

“At first, my friends took it as a little bit of a joke,” Klemmensen said. “There was a clip of me playing, and I killed a bunch of people really fast. A couple colleges ended up seeing it, and started offering me spots after that clip. It was one of those things where my friends really didn’t take it seriously until the paperwork started coming in the mail. And then they all thought it was pretty cool.”

Both seniors are excited to see what the 2019-2020 school year will bring them. Esports is a new field that is growing continuously.

“It’s still kind of new in my mind and I have a drive to do it,” Klemmensen said. “It’s gonna be good to compete and hopefully win some championships.”