Zynab Makki, a junior at Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont, had driven 90 minutes from her home for the chance to meet Tyler Schrodt, the young founder and chief executive of the Electronic Gaming Federation.
Since he started the EGF out of his dorm room four years ago, Schrodt has branded himself as the one-stop guru for college students hoping to coax their overflowing video-game clubs from the fringes of university life toward a more mainstream existence. He presents his gaming federation as part mentor and part support system — “the Swiss Army knife for esports on campus.”
His true goal, though, and that of several other organizations jockeying for leadership roles in the growing but haphazardly governed world of college gaming, is bigger: to organize a sort of NCAA for esports.
That grand ambition means not only regular meetings with skeptical university officials but also sit-downs with students like Makki, who runs a club that hopes to persuade Champlain to grant it varsity status. She arrived at Schrodt’s office in over the summer armed with questions about sponsorships, scholarships and strategy.
“Any major challenges we can help you out with right now?” Schrodt said.
“I want to do a retreat,” Makki said. Schrodt chuckled. He paused, thinking of hard-core competitive gamers enduring trust falls and icebreaker activities, and then issued his standard reply.
“Yes,” he said. “We can help with that.”
Right now, there is no NCAA for esports, even though competitive gaming is expanding quickly on college campuses. Last year, 40 colleges — a group that includes universities large (Utah) and small (DigiPen Institute of Technology) — established “varsity” esports programs, meaning they hired a full-time coach and staff members, designated an official arena, began recruiting prospective players and even awarded esports scholarships. To these universities, esports programs are as legitimate as the football team. Robert…