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Believe It Or Not, Some Colleges Are Offering Scholarships For Playing Video Games

OLD WESTBURY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- They're a new breed of athlete, one that colleges nationwide are clamoring over.

In the past three years, 50 schools have added esports programs. Seventeen of them offer scholarships.

CBS2's Steve Overmyer was in attendance at the inaugural esports game at New York Institute of Technology. The gamers played a six-on-six game called "Overwatch" against the University of Delaware, whose team is 200 miles away,

So what do parents say when they find out that their kids can earn scholarships by playing video games?

A member of the NYIT esports team competes in a game against the University of Delaware. (credit: CBS2)

"Well, at first, you tell them you're on a team. They get excited," said Bryan Valenti of the NYIT CyBears. "You say it's a video game team. The happiness kind of leaves a little bit."

Just like any other athlete, esports gamers go through weeks of training just to make the team.

The NCAA has yet to regulate esports. That means professional gamers can join the programs.

"Playing with everyone together, you can kind of just feel the energy in the roo," said Robert Schneck.

"It was fun. It was exhilirating," he added. "It's nice to be able to play with everyone really close."

When asked if he sees a future when being on an esports team will have the same credibility as playing on the basketball team, Eliezer Duran said: "Without a doubt. Esports, in general, is just a growing industry. It's only a matter of time."

Esports are about more than just gaming. Players say it improves communication and social skills, and it's allowing the schools to meet the students in their world.

NYIT athletic director Dan Veltz said if it were up to him alone, the school would start offering esports scholarships tomorrow.

"We're an institution that's tuition driven," he said. "The more things we can offer that will attract students, the more beneficial it is to us."

A recent study by the University of California in Irvine says 72 percent of college students play video games, yet only 1 percent of schools offer esports programs.

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