ATHENS, WV (WVNS) — Electronic sports, or e-sports for short, is growing at an incredible rate as it is a $1.6 billion industry.

Many schools, both at the high school and collegiate levels give students the opportunity to pursue careers in the video game industry while playing the games they love.

Concord University’s e-sports program started in 2019 and grows every year.

More than 50 students are in the program, with each student specializing in one of eight different games, ranging from battle games like Overwatch and Call of Duty to sports games like Madden and FIFA.

Austin Clay, the program director, said the program teaches the students more than just how to win at video games.

“We use e-sports as a way to prepare students for their job when they graduate,” said Clay. “So we want them to win here as well but we want to teach them life lessons and life skills that they can apply to the job, to other things in life, like traditional sports. You win in traditional sports, you also learn a lot of structure and a lot of different ways to apply that to a job.”

Tyrell Blair, a junior who specializes in Nintendo’s Super Smash Brothers, said he has learned a lot about time management through the program.

“Doing this takes a lot of time, but I also work for basketball,” said Blair. “So my time is divided between schoolwork and basketball. So if I don’t get it done, my grades are going to suffer and then I can’t do any of this. So if I want to keep doing all the things I like, I gotta be on time, finish my work and make sure it’s good and stuff.”

Parents need not worry about their student’s grades suffering due to playing video games too much.

Just like student-athletes, members of the program have to remain above a certain GPA to continue playing.

In fact, the national GPA for all esports programs is around 2.7 with many programs requiring at least a 2.5 to remain active.

Despite those requirements, William Jackson, a junior who is ranked in the top 100 worldwide in Rocket League, said those interested in the industry should pursue their dreams.

“Gaming is a really competitive field to make it to the top as a pro,” said Jackson. “You have to go to some extreme lengths, but if you love it, it’s worth it every day. Like, I get up, I’m excited to play and I’m excited to compete and it’s really motivating for me. So if you love it, follow your dreams, it’s wonderful.

This past semester, Concord made the national playoffs, consisting of the top 32 programs, for all eight games the program participates in.

Clay added he plans to get the program to 75 students and a total of ten games by 2025.