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University of Missouri enters esports arena

The University of Missouri has announced that it will join the competitive esports scene.

The school became a member Tuesday of the National Association of Collegiate Esports, the largest college-level competitive gaming scene in the country. Teams focusing on the games Overwatch and League of Legends will begin practicing and competing next fall.

Columbia College and Stephens College are also members of the NACE.

Scholarship programs are currently in the works, said MU administrative consultant Andrew Sommer. The computer lab and two classrooms at Center Hall will be converted into the team’s headquarters, with practice space, coaches offices and rooms for film review and online streaming for players.

Arabella McEntire, a freshman at MU, said she was interested in MU’s gaming scene when she was searching for prospective schools. While the school had various clubs dedicated to certain games, she thought Mizzou had potential to take its gaming scene further. She will be the program’s first athlete, playing Overwatch.

Her hopes for future teammates: no toxicity on the team.

“If you’re the kind of person, no matter how great you are, that will blame others, that’s not the kind of person we would really want on the team,” McEntire said.

Kevin Reape, an MU graduate and Student Affairs employee, felt the same way about MU’s gaming scene. Reape, an Overwatch player himself, will serve as interim head coach of the team. He said he hopes the program attracts people to MU who may have not otherwise considered the school.

“We might have people coming here that might not necessarily think about coming here, and they’re going to find our journalism school, and they’re going to find our other incredible things that we’re able to offer them,” Reape told ABC 17 News.

School officials also hope the growing popularity of esports, particularly among teenagers, translates into interest in the school. The World Economic Forum estimated that the esports industry is worth $1 billion. An estimated 380 million people watched esports tournaments online in 2018, the think tank said in a July report.

McEntire said the esports program will showcase the diversity of people that enjoy video games. She said she knew that people at MU would embrace it, including the competitive side of the esports program.

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