Why educational institutions should develop Esports programs – and how to start

The author of this article is Matthew Wang, Columbia University Esports Club President

Esports has seen a meteoric rise in the sports and entertainment industry for the past ten years, and it shows no sign of slowing down. According to Business Insider, the “total Esports viewership is expected to grow at a 9% compound rate (CAGR) between 2019 and 2023, up from 454 million in 2019 to 646 million in 2023…That puts the Esports audience on pace to nearly double over a six-year period, as the 2017 audience stood at 335 million,” putting Esports as the eighth or ninth most viewed sport in the world. With the viewership demographic dominated by teenagers and adults aged 16-24, schools and universities should adopt this trend to help students learn, grow, and seek opportunities in this fast-paced industry.

Current opportunities

Esports are creating many more jobs – from 2018 to 2019, job opportunities increased 185% – and companies are looking for talent to fill these new openings. One example is the newly launched TSMU program, which aims to partner with students attending university to recruit and foster talent. The program will “provide internship programs and coveted career opportunities within the TSM organization, [and] students [can] now learn and connect with the multi-billion dollar global Esports industry in a much more direct and meaningful way giving them the chance to develop the skills and the network needed to pave the way for future career opportunities.” TSM, a renowned Esports team based in North America, is just one of many examples of the growing demand for people in Esports. Game developers like Activision Blizzard, EA, and Riot Games and technology companies like Twitch, Corsair, and Logitech are all looking for people with Esports experience. These jobs are only becoming more and more popular and shortly will become a very legitimate career path. From becoming a player agent and team manager on a developed Esports team to developing and balancing gameplay for a AAA game title, the jobs created by the Esports industry are endless.

Teaching students and building character

Esports isn’t just a way for students to earn future career opportunities. Like any degree, it won’t guarantee to land a job in the future. However, Esports provides so much more than just possible employment. Like sports, Esports is a great way to build a community and teach students life lessons and skills. Competitively, students need to spend many hours a day building team chemistry, come up with revolutionary and unique strategies, and build mental fortitude to succeed in tournaments. Administratively, students will need to learn anything from creating an Esports organization, running weekly events, managing the team, learning how to market, running tournaments, contacting rival schools for participation, and finding sponsors. They will also need to build a community where students can bond together and create lasting friendships. Unlike other extracurricular activities, since Esports is in such a young and early stage, students are at the forefront of developing the scene. Not only are they heavily involved in building Esports from the ground up, but the students are also succeeding in doing so.

Current scholastic programs

Many schools around the United States and the globe have already recognized the flourishing Esports industry. They have already started to make their move to coalesce Esports into their school. In the United States, many colleges are implementing school-backed varsity teams with scholarship opportunities. This list includes schools like the University of California – Irvine, Maryville University, and Miami University-Oxford. The road doesn’t stop there either. Many colleges have also added Esports-related majors and degrees like Ohio State University, Becker College, and the University of Texas Arlington in the USA, and the University of Chichester, Staffordshire University, and Nottingham Trent University in the UK. Furthermore, Oxford University is working with Tencent – the owner of Riot Games – “to host tournaments and offer courses to students to increase the profile of Esports and foster talent.”

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