Esports, or online video game tournaments, are quickly becoming a sport of choice among millennials, with approximately 380 million participants globally.
The fast-growing digital phenomenon is overtaking traditional sports to become one of the most popular recreational activities in New Zealand.
To meet the demand for the growing sport, the University has opened the on-campus OMEN Esports Arena and launched the 2degrees Esports Scholarship for School-Leavers. Worth $5000, the scholarship contributes to course fees, mentoring and wellbeing assistance.
Ryan Holt is the inaugural scholarship recipient, thanks to his esports success and academic performance throughout high school. The former Tauranga Boys' College student captained a team at the Australia-New Zealand Heroes of the Storm Premier Division last year, and coached an amateur European team.
“The mental challenge and teamwork are the best parts of esports,” Ryan says. “Esports has allowed me to combine my passion for video games with my love of a challenge, and to surround myself with other likeminded people.”
Outside of gaming, Ryan ensures a healthy life balance by volunteering at the Waipuna Charity Shop, playing lawn bowls and taking regular walks outside without any devices.
“I know that esports can be an all-consuming passion, so I actively seek out other activities to maintain good health and wellbeing,” he says. “At the same time, esports can provide many mental health benefits, such as increased resilience, teamwork skills, improved memory and ultimately better decision making.”
Ryan is aiming to work in game design one day and hopes his Bachelor of Computing and Mathematical Sciences will help him get there.
“Esports is a new and emerging field – the viewership is steadily climbing and the financial backing is growing, so it’s great to see the University of Waikato leading the way in this exciting industry.”
The University of Waikato’s purpose-built OMEN Esports Arena is located at The Station on Hillcrest Road. Members can pay to use one of the OMEN gaming computers or play on the Xbox. To become a member, visit UniRec to get an annual membership for $15.
Applications for the next year’s 2degrees Esports Scholarship for School-Leavers are now open.