VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WVEC) — For decades, playing video games held the stigma of an after-school hobby, hardly something the average teenager could turn into a career.

Things have changed.

Today, the competitive world of electronic sports, or eSports, is growing into a billion-dollar industry. Financial services company Goldman Sachs projects its annual revenue to grow from $655 million in 2017 to $2.96 billion by 2022.

With that, colleges and universities are taking notice, and the number of school’s with varsity eSports programs continues to grow alongside the industry.

That trend has now reached Hampton Roads. ECPI University recently became the first local school to join the National Association of Collegiate eSports (NACE). NACE is the governing body of eSports at the collegiate level.

“Being able to provide them with that type of support is fantastic," said team coach Stephen Arthur. "The players love it.”

13News Now has followed ECPI’s new program from the beginning, from early tryouts to the team’s first competitive matches against the top school’s in the country including Clemson University and Texas A&M.

“There’s a generation coming up that will make it as competitive as possible," said player James Johnson.

The players also want to show people that eSports are just that – a sport.

Maybe it's not the one you grew up watching on TV, but it's one that's getting bigger and bigger, gaining hundreds of millions of views online. A perk is that anyone can make a career out of it, just like football or basketball.

“The social stigma for video games will definitely go away with time,” said Johnson.

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