College credit for Playing Video Games? At Some California Campuses, It’s Happening

Growing up as the youngest child of four, Fernando Gomez would often pass the time by watching his two older brothers play the video games Metal Gear Solid and Final Fantasy while sitting cross-legged on his brother’s bed.

Gaming “kind of brought us together,” Gomez said. It also inspired him to create San Francisco State University’s first student-run esports program as an undergrad — experience he parlayed into a post-grad job as the digital content coordinator for the Portland Trailblazers. “That experience is 100% why I’m here today, doing what I do now,” Gomez said. 

Professors and students are citing success stories like Gomez’s as they launch programs in esports — a form of competitive gaming — at colleges around the state. At least six Cal State campuses and nearly all of the University of California campuses have created esports programs since 2015, in which students host and compete in live tournaments, sometimes funded by corporate sponsors. Both Cal State Dominguez Hills and UC Irvine offer certificates in esports, which means students can earn credit for, yes, playing video games.

This article originally appeared in the May 20, 2021 Cal Matters website by author Marisa Martinez.

Photo Credit: Ruben Caputo