Esports has undeniably solidified a growing position in the global economic and sporting infrastructure, with millions of dollars available in salaries, winnings, sponsorship deals, and streaming rights, Esports is now most certainly a force to be reckoned with.
Estimated at a worth of $1.6 billion and with an audience of 540 million individuals, the trajectory seems unmitigated. This has been evident in such stories as that of Toronto Ultra, which has recently ensured each one of their member’s fingers for upwards of $1 million per player, displaying the value players and the contests they participate in hold.
This emergence is a situation that has not been lost at many schools and organisations of tertiary education, with numerous highly valuable courses available at universities and colleges across the world with hotbeds such as the US and China leading the way.
Such developments in Esports focus mean that an even more lucrative, well-rounded and comprehensively developed industry may flourish.
Florida Memorial University
Initiatives such as the one at Florida Memorial University (FMU), are finding newer creative avenues to pursue a wider range of activities within the Esports sector. In this case, the project allows students to not only hone their skills in a variety of different disciplines, games, consoles and environments but also affords students the tuition required to develop the games themselves.
Created by the Director of Esports at FMU, Craig Skilling, subsequent to being made redundant due to the Covid-19 pandemic. He has since taken the principles delivered at FMU to other projects across numerous Universities, where they are taught code and even animate their own material.
The aims of the project at FMU and those spawned from it at entities such as Saint Thomas University and Florida International university, are comprehensive and intend to provide students with the ability to publish their own games from the top down.
Turnout has been extremely high, drawing in self-reported figures of over 200 students to some programs.
Skilling has commented on the future of such initiatives, with much progress still to be made, he believes equitable access will be the key to growing the sport positively.
Inclusivity and the Mustangs’ college Esports pledge
Access and inclusion was and continues to be the order of the day in Esports education. For instance, the Montgomery County Community College has been making careful steps and fruitful strides to maximise both diversity and inclusivity making it a very fine point of focus.
Described by the college’s own media as an inherently inclusive competitive environment, Esports is highly unique in this sense. This is due to the lack of particular and highly acute physical demands present in traditional sports. In lieu of this, the Montgomery educational facility inaugurated their Mustangs all-gender athletic program in the spring of 2020 to a no less than impressive competitive success.
Boasting a National Junior College Athletic Association Esports (NJCAAe) champion, with three of the program’s team having made the National Esports Collegiate Conference (NECC) playoffs, and multiple players having been named on the Eastern Pennsylvania Athletic Conference (EPAC) All-Academic Team.
This and much more has been achieved by the Mustangs using a system predisposed to 3 distinct principles. The creation of dedicated physical, accessible spaces for gathering and gameplay. Treating the project with the due care and attention most any other sport receives to succeed, the Montgomery college has set aside space and equipment to garner the best results in terms of contest and education for their students.
The Mustangs have also made an inclusivity pledge to ensure a sense of belonging. Players sign the pledge promising to actively foster an inclusive community that treats all of its members and beyond with dignity and respect.
Finally the college has made its own further commitments to provide support in the form of services aimed at professional development, mental health services and integrated learning programs to attract and maintain interest from as wide a range of students as is possible.
Applying these principles effectively and purposefully will hopefully provide a great platform to adequately develop an industry that is seen by the college as the future, not simply because technology is involved but due to the inherent diversity of the players Esports is available to.
Michigan State college now providing scholarships
Michigan State has also made headlines of late with their varsity Esports program joining the trend that is slowly growing excellent traction in offering both full and partial scholarships. Many colleges are now in a position to offer brilliant facilities and highly sought-after tuition, so attracting players and potential professionals to sharpen their skills and learn of the industry at any particular university is becoming an increasingly challenging enterprise.
Bringing to the forefront aspects of professional opportunity and collegiate competition, receiving a scholarship is now as important a part of the Esports infrastructure as it is for any other varsity sport.
The highly demanding competitive and demanding landscape of Esports has meant that more focus and larger investment is required earlier and earlier in an Esports career. Providing such scholarships and the offer of meaningful competition against the now 30 strong alternative varsity Esports teams across the US is a significant step in building an ecosystem that will be conducive to opportunity and on-going success.
The attempts that have been made to build inclusivity will of course be of little value without competition. Due to the very nature of playing video games, competition is an aspect of Esports that simply cannot be denied.
Competitive opportunities, at every level, are beginning to become increasingly accessible, with Stockton University an example that has only recently made the news, with their Galloway Campus forthcoming as the venue for the New Jersey state-wide Esports championship.
A competition that will see 22 of the best high school and middle school Esports teams across the state of New Jersey contest several titles as part of the Garden State Esports Spring finals.
The importance of such a contest brings to light both the demand and new opportunity available for even the youngest of Esports players, which is incredibly important due to the fact that 24% of all persons under 18 are video gamers, making the sector among this demographic more of a mass trend than a niche industry as it is for older participants.
The mass appeal video games have for a younger audience is increasingly being considered with such examples set by the likes of Stockton University to bring a non-profit organisation in the form of Garden State Esports to their esteemed venue. In this sense legitimising Esports’ ability to facilitate social, emotional and academic growth across a variety of demographics.
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