The Untapped Potential of Esports in the UAAP

A Quick Look Into the Untapped Potential of Esports in the UAAP

Esports is the sport of the youth, so it only makes sense that it should have some presence in one of the biggest athletic associations in the Philippines.

The UAAP is the home for amateur athletic excellence for multiple sports in the Philippines, yet esports remains out of their roster. Esports has been growing in size and popularity for years, capturing the attention of multiple generations of fans and competitors. Maybe it’s about time that the UAAP finally taps this new font of competition.

Now, two things to address before we proceed: first, arguing about whether or not esports is actually a sport in this context is moot. It’s an activity that promotes mastery, competition, and discipline, just like any traditional sport. Arguing that it shouldn’t be part of the UAAP means that we should put the inclusion of chess into question, and that’s really not the point of discussion.

The other is that esports is not a fad, no matter how many people claim that it might be. Competitive video gaming has been around as early as the 90’s, with tournaments held in local arcades. Esports as we know it may be relatively new but there have always been people who are raring to go and compete at the highest level for their chosen video game.

So, could esports be a viable inclusion in the UAAP?

Testing the waters

This is not to say that the discussion for including esports has been ignored completely. Talks about including it in the UAAP calendar have been going on since 2020, back when the pandemic was in full swing. Things have changed quite a bit since then but the interest in esports still remains. 

Large sports organizations have already dipped their toes into the esports waters with demonstration events. The SEA Games and Asian Games come to mind, and they’ve even elevated them to full medal events down the road. In both cases, esports fans and competitors showed to a wider audience that they’re just as passionate as any sport.

The Untapped Potential of Esports in the UAAP
(Photo credit: AESF)

It’s also worth mentioning that this is an arena that Filipinos have excelled in.

We are currently the three-time SEA Games gold medalists in Mobile Legends, along with silvers and bronzes in other titles. If this is a space where Pinoy athletes can flourish, then isn’t it only fair that we give them an avenue to hone their skills? With that in mind, our very own Philippine Esports Organization is already laying the foundations for our future esports athletes. Just last year they launched a demonstration event with the Palarong Pambansa with plans for further cooperation in the future. 

On the UAAP’s part, they have committed to holding esports as a demonstration sport for Season 86. With how big esports is becoming here in the Philippines, there’s a chance that it might become an official sport in the future but that comes with its own set of challenges.

Setting up the infrastructure

Building interest in esports is not a problem for the UAAP-aligned universities. In fact, the Big Four have had their own esports organizations running for multiple years now. Independent esports advocates such as AcadArena have also made it easier for amateurs and enthusiasts to find opportunities in the esports scene.

The Untapped Potential of Esports in the UAAP
(Photo by PeSO)

With the UAAP willing to give esports a shot, the most difficult hurdle comes from the universities themselves.

UAAP executive director Rene “Rebo” Saguisag has said that the inclusion of esports will become an entirely new budgetary concern for the schools involved. Fielding an official university esports team is a big commitment, one that requires the same attention as any varsity team. Between the logistics of getting equipment, coaches, holding tryouts, and other concerns, it’s an uphill climb to get universities to buy into making their own esports team.

Still, the interest and passion are there from the students and will continue to be there as long as their drive to compete and excel remains. But ultimately, the ball is in the hands of the universities and the UAAP if they want to capitalize on this drive.

Banner image from Freepik.

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