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Opinion

The Next Generation of Esports: Universities and Schools

30 June 2017
esports Competitions in Schools & Universities | The Next Generation of Esports: Universities and Schools | Neon

If you’ve read our free esports guide, ‘Field of View’: How To Identify Your Esports Audience, then you will know esports is here to stay.

With a global audience of 385 million (which is expected to rise to 589 million by 2020), it is one of the fastest-growing industries out there and now, schools and universities are beginning to take notice. Below are just some of the ways the grassroots of esports is being supported and nurtured by educational institutions, and how the idea of pursuing a career in the sector is beginning to enter the UK mainstream.

Universities

The United Kingdom is synonymous with top quality and prestigious universities. People from all over the world come to learn at the likes of Oxford and Cambridge, who are regularly pushing new boundaries. So it was no surprise when, in a UK first, Staffordshire University launched an esports degree to begin in September 2018. Over a three-year period, the BA (Hons) course will cover all aspects of the industry, including hosting events, creating business plans, setting up teams and establishing online communities.

The move is a response to the skill shortage we are currently seeing in the infant but rapidly growing esports industry. Yes, that’s right, esports organisations across the world are crying out for young professionals who understand the complexity of the industry and can bring their intelligence and passion to bear on it.

Over 73% of those employed within esports are under the age of 35 and their skills are in demand.

Rachel Gowers - Academic Dean for Recruitment in the Business School from the University of Staffordshire.

With numerous roles available, the field is wide open. If you want to perfect your League of Legends game while earning a degree then go on to join the ranks of a professional esports team, you can do that. Or maybe you fancy the marketing and PR side of things? Well, you can do that too. Here are just some of the post-graduation career opportunities available in the esports industry as listed by The British esports Association:

  • Professional player
  • Shoutcaster/host
  • Coach/analyst
  • Journalist/content creator
  • PR/Marketing executive
  • Product manager
  • Sales/partnerships manager
  • Admin/referee
  • Organisation owner/manager
  • Community/social media manager
  • Broadcast/production crew
  • Event manager
  • Agent
  • Other roles (statistician, lawyer, finance, support etc)
  • Other gaming careers (developers, publishers, distribution etc)

The action doesn’t stop there. If you attended University then you will be aware of Varsity Matches, which involve two Unis competing against each other in numerous sports, including Rugby and Quidditch (yes really)! Well on 7th May, The University of Staffordshire and Keele University held their very own esports Varsity event. Covering eight games, including the likes of CS:GO and Super Smash Bros 4, the event attracted plenty of interest and was, of course, live-streamed on Twitch, one of the cornerstones of esports.

esports Varsity in Schools & Universities | The Next Generation of Esports: Universities and Schools | Neon

More big news coming this week as ESL and University of York announce a ‘world-first esports collaboration.’

The partnership will enable students at the University of York to pioneer and test new teaching methods and new research facilities, solely dedicated to esports.

Featuring an £18m research initiative focussing on digital gaming and the interactive media, this is a monumental step forward into thrusting the UK to the pinnacle of esports.

esports in University of York| The Next Generation of Esports: Universities and Schools | Neon

Schools

In April 2017, the BBC’s Newsround asked the question ‘Should schools have esports teams?’ As the video shows, the new digital generation are not content with the traditional egg and spoon race anymore. They want to include esports in their Sports Days, and why shouldn’t they? Not all kids enjoy a competitive physical sport and not all kids are actually any good at it, so why shouldn’t they be allowed to compete in something they enjoy and are good at?

Although there is not as much physical exercise involved, esports promotes the same key values as any other sport, such as teamwork and sportsmanship. Our friends at the British esports Association have recognised the importance of supporting esports at grassroots by launching another UK first: an esports After School club. The pilot scheme held in conjunction with Westminster City was a significant success.

Here’s what British Esports content director Dominic Sacco had to say:

By engaging with children, we are looking at the bigger picture with the goal of creating more British esports talent in the long-term.

This pilot scheme will help children, parents and teachers learn about esports and the career paths it offers, while at the same time demonstrate the benefits of playing esports, such as team-building and cognitive benefits.

The findings from the pilot scheme will also help us instruct schools how to set up their own extracurricular esports clubs, and other libraries may be inspired to run their own sessions in the future. We’re delighted to be teaming up with Westminster City Council and DinoPC for this initiative.

We hope to see more initiatives such as this introduced into our primary and high schools as time goes on. Our children can carve out successful careers for themselves in this up-and-coming industry and it’s up to society to ensure they have the platform to do so.

A boy playing Rocket League | The Next Generation of Esports: Universities and Schools | Neon

Playing Catch Up…

In November of last year, Ukie (The Association for UK Interactive Entertainment) launched an esports whitepaper at the Gfinity Arena, home of our clients Gfinity. The intention was to establish the UK as a global esports Hub, and although significant strides have been made, we are still some way behind the industry’s leaders. The likes of South Korea and the USA identified the importance of nurturing esports growth many years ago, so there’s a need for the UK to follow suit.

For example, South Korean universities began accepting gamers on esports courses as student athletes back in 2014. The sport moved into the South Korean mainstream and now esports is pretty much their national sport, producing some of the most gifted and revered players to date, including LoL legend Faker (Lee Sang-Hyeok).

Not long after it hit the big-time in South Korea, esports took off in the USA. Reporting back in August 2014, The New York Times first revealed this alien, but hugely popular, concept to its bemused readership. Soon after, US colleges began introducing esports scholarships programmes. With the state’s massive collegiate sports culture, it seemed the perfect place for esports to grow, and grow it did!

North American Collegiate Championship 2015 logo | The Next Generation of Esports: Universities and Schools | Neon

The next generation of esports stars and industry professionals are certainly on their way. We are beginning to see more and more countries give the industry the recognition it deserves. It is not just a ‘flash in the pan’, or a craze that will eventually die out. Our future generations are taking esports seriously, so we should do the same. esports enthusiasts are taking their education to the very highest level through the love of the sport, learning not just about playing games, but other valuable skills that comes from any form of education.

Tell us your thoughts on the introduction of eSport degrees in the UK. You can find us on Twitter @createdbyneon.

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