by Shi Futian
CHINA DAILY/ANN - Gaming may still be considered the enemy by many Chinese parents, but that doesn’t mean university students–even those from the country’s most prestigious institutes – are missing out on the eSports boom.
On Sunday, the final of the 2018 University Cyber League’s North Division wrapped up in Beijing, where eight universities, including top schools like Tsinghua University, Peking University and Renmin University of China, fought it out in five different battlefields such as soccer game “FIFA online3”, first-person shooter “Cross Fire” and multiplayer online battle arena hit “League of Legends.”
The East, West and Central South Division finals will kick off before the end of the month, with the winners qualifying for a national championship.
As the only eSports tournament approved by the Federation of University Sports of China, the inaugural 2018 UCL, co-organised by Tencent Sports, is so far the biggest of its kind, boasting the most teams and the nation’s top university players.
Tencent describes the UCL as “a sports and entertainment extravaganza” and one which can facilitate the healthy and sustainable development of eSports in China.
“University plays a vital role in facilitating the standardisation and industrialisation of a healthy eSports industry in China,” said Ewell Zhao, general manager of Tencent Sports.
The birth of the UCL is just another example of China’s booming eSports industry.
According to a 2017 China Game Industry Report published by Penguin Intelligence, the market value of China’s eSports sector reached 20 billion yuan (about $3 billion), generated by gamers’ spending, copyright distribution, merchandising and e-commerce.
The number of registered online gamers jumped to from 170 million in 2016 to 220 million in 2017 – 24 percent of those were from universities, which equates to about 53 million students.
However, while Chinese professional leagues like King Pro League are driving the development of pro gaming clubs and coaches, university eSports remains in its infancy.
“We started the eSports society of our university three years ago, and it was organised by students with no help from teachers or the school,” said Li Jiyun, captain of Renmin University of China’s team that was crowned League of Legends champion on Sunday.
“In order to balance school work and training, we can only train after class from about 6pm-10pm.”
That’s a considerably more structured regime than Peking University’s freshmen-only team has managed.
“Initially, as the freshmen, we just used games like ‘King of Glory’ as a way to get to know each other and we just got it started in 2017,” said Peking’s captain, Ge Jiadi. “In the very beginning, there was just several of us, and now there are over a hundred. We assembled the team by ourselves.”
Ge from Peking University hopes that eSports can become more accepted by the mainstream.
It appears he may get his wish.
The Olympic Council of Asia confirmed that eSports will be part of the 2018 and 2022 Asian Games, while the International Olympic Council has said that eSports “could be considered a sporting activity”. china daily