- Eugene Frier, Texas Wesleyan University
- Kathy Chiang, Arena Coordinator, University of California, Irvine
“Esports have grown WAY beyond “kids playing video games in the basement while drinking Mountain Dew and eating Cheetos.” The events are geeing bigger and bigger; the industry is becoming more professional; and audience and revenue growth are big and growing fast. Brand are involved in a big way: sports teams, broadcast media, mainstream brands, and Esports teams all field competitive Esports teams. What’s still “kind of weird” to some of us is normal for our students.
Timeline: student organizations > independent leagues > developer leagues > varsity programs
Origins – Community
- Student clubs: independent, grassroots; unofficial support from developers
- Collegiate Starleague (CSL): founded in 2009; modeled after South Korea’s StarCraft ProLeague
Origins – Developers
- TESPA: founded in 2012, acquired by Blizzard in 2013, heroes of the dorm 2015
- College League of Legends: NACC in 2015, uLOL in 2016, College League of Legends in 2017.
Origins – Colleges & Universities
- Creation of varsity programs: started in 2014; Three active in 2015, six active in 2016, 27 active in 2017
Current Day Colegiate Esports
It’s a Multi-Layered Ecosystem
- Student orgs: focused on member development; some of the biggest and most well-funded orgs on campus
- Varsity programs: 100+ programs in 2018, often built like athletic teams. Scholarships range from a couple thousand per year to full-ride.
- Twitch student: huge advocate for student voices; pathways to create and monetize streams.
- Collegiate leagues: 3rd party and developer/publisher leagues; advocates for students, varsity programs; competitive league + support infrastructure.
- Scholarships and prize winnings.
Student-led vs. Varsity
UCI case study: 2011-2019: LoL pushed the boundaries of what we could do at a university. Top two accomplishments: world-viewing party in 2013 (a highly social event – over 800 attendees at our first event, then 1,800 at our next one!); we expanded into an umbrella organization that ended up being the largest group on campus. We currently give scholarships for League of Legends and Overwatch.
Texas Wesleyan University case study 2017-2019: what can we do to stay relevant and competitive and engage with students? I spoke with over a dozen universities and companies to figure out what we could do. After speaking with Athletics, we realized it would fit better into Student Affairs programming. We based it on the three pillars of Competition, Creation, Community. What made it land with senior administration was how this program connects with “the murky middle,” or students who don’t fit into traditional modes of student engagement. This program can be the “hook” for students who aren’t connecting in other areas. Most of our students do a lot more than gaming!
Benefits to Current Generation
- Old expectations: local, segmented (age, gender, region), static, trusting in authority.
- New expectations: global, segmented by ability, dynamic, democratic.
- Involvement beyond competition: production, content creation, shoutcasting, management, digital marketing, event planning
- Soft skill development
- Meaningful involvement for students who don’t always see their interests represented on campus
- College esports are here
- Meet expectations of a digital age
- Opportunity to engage with students