It is surely the dream of any teenage gamer: a subsidised college education that involves sitting around all day playing video games.

But now one United States university has turned that dream into non-virtual reality, by offering athletics scholarships to skilled players of the online battle game League of Legends. Robert Morris University, a small private college in Chicago, already recruits some 1400 students a year by awarding them athletics scholarships in sports such as basketball and American football.

From the northern autumn this year, however, they will be joined by as many as 30 more to be awarded the new League of Legends scholarships - the first of their kind in the US.

The university has set aside a total budget of approximately US$450,000 ($513,300) to fund the scholarships, the largest of which will be worth US$19,000 - about half the cost of tuition and accommodation at Robert Morris. The scheme was conceived as a way for the university to attract competitive, tech-savvy but non-sporty students - most of them young men. In the days since the scholarships were announced, the school has reportedly received hundreds of inquiries.


The League of Legends scholarships were the brainchild of the school's associate athletics director, Kurt Melcher, who told the Chicago Tribune that the video game is "a team sport". "There's strategy involved. You have to know your role in the game. Obviously it's not cardiovascular in any way, but it's mental. There are elements that go into it that are just like any other sport."

Several institutions already offer scholarships to prospective students with gaming potential, including Sony, whose GIRL scholarship programme was created in 2008 to support young women with ambitions in the video-game industry. California's Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences also offers several scholarships to prospective gaming professionals.

League of Legends was created by the Santa Monica-based studio Riot Games and released in 2009. By 2014, it had more than 67 million players worldwide.

- Independent