Don’t tell Tom Smith video games are a waste of time. This Naperville North student will soon travel to Disney World to compete in a nationwide online gaming contest. The prize: a $10,000 scholarship.

“I kept getting higher and higher scores, and eventually got offered a trip down to Disney World,” said Smith, who didn’t describe himself as an avid video game player.

The website is called, where gamers compete in a series of online games. The top 15 scorers in one time period face off in a head-to-head competition, earning anywhere from $500 to the grand prize of $10,000 in scholarship money. The student’s earnings increase in correlation to their final place, and any student over age 13 can play.

“The games themselves are very easy to play. They are meant to be completed,” said Smith.

Tom Smith’s father, Mike Smith, reacted like a good, skeptical parent would when his son told him about the competition.

“I didn’t believe it at first. So with the internet and scams and stuff I thought we’d better check this out,” said Mike Smith. “So we did, and it turned out it was completely legitimate.”

The legitimacy of should come as a blessing for students around the country. College tuition prices have increased as much as 24% over the last ten years. That’s forced colleges to increase their pool of available financial aid.

“The way the costs are for college, students are coming up with more and more creative ways to fund their education,” said Maria Caselli, Associate Director of Development at North Central College.

These gamers aren’t slackers. Tom Smith scored a 36 on the math portion of his ACT, and will study Chemical Engineering at the University of Illinois next year. Furthermore, he says practicing online games helps him in the classroom.

“Part of the challenge is getting used to these games and finding out ways to beat them. I can use that in the class room to learn how to study better and prepare better for tests,” said Smith.


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