HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii Pacific University's ESports Arena is home field for the HPU Sharks.
That’s right — it’s a place where gamers are taking part in the growing trend of ESports.
The university fields an Esports squad, actually two of them — an A and a B team.
"When I say I'm captain of the ESports team, people are kind of like, 'What's that?'" said Wesley O'Neill.
No longer is gaming a distraction for college kids, it’s now part of the collegiate sports landscape.
O’Neill is a junior majoring in computer science and an avid gamer, as are others on the Sharks who excel at ESports.
“I think more and more universities are seeing the benefits of it, for retention, for recruitment,” said Cody Down, chief of HPU’s Information Technology Services.
The Sharks go head-to-head with other college teams in the fast-paced, competitive online game League of Legends.
HPU plays a six-game schedule. The Saturday matches in the ESports Arena can draw big crowds who follow the action on large video screens.
Tech publication Wired estimates ESports has grown into a $900 million industry with hundreds of colleges now fielding teams.
"There's 57 in the Western region alone. Then you have the North, the East, the South. Then you have a couple of smaller regions like the Peach Belt and the Big Ten. They all are full of schools. So there's about 500, at least," O'Neill said.
And there’s more to college gaming. HPU and many universities now offer ESports scholarships.
"They can just go to our website," Down said. "We have an application form for scholarships. They can earn between $1,000 and $6,000 a year to play on our team."
Selections are based on grades and game rankings. It helps if applicants have done commentary over video gaming or played in tournaments on YouTube.
"A lot of younger kids are really into these video games," O'Neill said.
Last year HPU awarded $15,000 in scholarships to high school gamers.
Down said computer gaming is a career path for some students.
"People understand that it is something to think about," he said.
With it’s own hi-tech arena and gaming teams, HPU is all in on ESports, where there is no shortage of competition.