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Looking To Make Millions After College? Michigan State Students Look To E-Sports Fame

Julian Mitchell

Some Spartans e-gamers want to turn their talents into streaming and competition careers. 

EAST LANSING, Mich. – Making $10 million a year from a job is a nice gig.

Making that large amount, which was the income Tyler “Ninja” Blevins – a Metro Detroit-based e-sports star, was just another sweet year at the office for him.

Blevins streams his play on Fortnite to his legion of fans on Twitch. In turn, the streaming service allows creators like Blevins to stream and earn money in a variety of ways, such as having paid subscribers.

The idea of e-sports stars making as much money as NFL or MLB players is wild, but becoming a real career path for e-gamers. Players can go professional, making money from their skills and competing against the best of the best for championships.

Michigan State’s growing e-sports community is looking at the big picture – and the big money. At the collegiate level, there are more players and programs receiving funding to take advance to the next level.

Michigan State’s Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CSGO) team competes in tournaments with large prize pools, bringing a strong source of income for players.

“The thing about Counter-Strike as an e-sport is that there’s no money being pushed in directly from the developer, it’s all just venture capitalists and people who just want to see the community grow,” said Josh Schwimmer, president of the CSGO club.

Schwimmer said the main Collegiate Star League is funded by a venture capitalist, with the sponsorship covering team registrations and the prize pool. The prize pool is currently $50,000, with first place taking home $20,000.

Outside of tournaments, individuals from the CSGO team will stream over Twitch. The Spartans aren’t bringing in Ninja level money, but as Schwimmer said they make a modest amount - about $30 a month.

These sources of income help take the stress off a team that doesn’t receive a lot from MSU. The players pay their own way for tournaments and to play in the league.

This in contrast to the support e-sports is receiving at another public Michigan university - Western Michigan. The administration provides facilities, financial support and helps the students organize their teams

Credit Julian Mitchell

“It is interesting to see, especially having an overarching group as large as Western want to put that much effort into us,” said Trevor Cwiek, the president of WMU E-Sports. “I can at least say working with them on a personal level, working with them day to day on operations, planning events it’s amazing how much they’re willing to listen and work with us.”

Cwiek, a junior majoring in digital marketing, has seen the growth of e-sports first-hand at WMU. Their program may have only started a year ago, but in a short time, it has already been successful thanks to the support of the administration.

At the beginning of the year, Western Michigan’s president is pitched several initiatives that he can choose to go with and help with funding, according to Cwiek. It just happened that one of the initiatives was E-Sports.

Funding went towards putting 16 gaming PC’s in the university computer center and turning the Little Theatre into an E-Sports arena. The 190-seat auditorium is outfitted, according to WMU, with 36 gaming machines, of which six are competition computers.

The WMU’s push elevated the program. Cwiek said they have about 70 members, and have about 500 on their Discord - a group messaging app for the video gaming community.

It’s all surreal for Cwiek, as something he just loves to do has turned into something bigger.

“It’s honestly astonishing, sometimes I look and can’t even realize it,” he said. “It’s amazing to see your mom two years ago saying on Facebook, ‘My kid wouldn’t get off his damn computer.’ Now she’s saying, ‘So proud of my son working in e-sports’, it’s like “Oh 180 on that one’ and I can’t blame her, but it’s just interesting to see that.”

Credit Julian Mitchell

Both Schwimmer and Cwiek believe e-sports will continue to grow, and forward-thinking universities will help their students with the support to pursue becoming the next e-sports millionaire like Blevins.

“You either just grab on and go along for the ride, watch it soar or you can stay on the ground and watch it fly because it’s not stopping and its definitely going somewhere. You have so many people, just a massive untapped market that has never really been tapped into until the past couple of decades,” Cwiek said.

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