The esports industry has grown tremendously over the past 10 years, with the Washington Post going so far as to call the 2010s the era of “”teenage sport. “With the introduction of Twitch in 2011 and major contests like the first League of Legends With the World Championships seeing a $ 100,000 prize pool in the same year, esports began to gain coverage and growth throughout the 2010s.
Competitive esports at the professional level have seen big sell-out competitions such as Madison Square Garden in 2016 and some games are even expected to be medalists at the Asian Games in 2022.
One area that has seen growth within the broader industry is college esports. Colleges across the United States are launching esports programs at an increasing rate, including Pace University and the University of Arizona, in addition to more than 100 currently existing programs. Some of these programs may have started as student-run clubs, but many now participate in organized leagues.
So where is college esports now and where could it go for everyone involved? With growing support from colleges and universities in the form of program investments, scholarships, and continued interest from students, college sports are fast becoming as normal an after-school program as sports are. -same.
The current state of college esport
College esports, just like the industry as a whole, has grown in recent years. This growth can translate into more students participating in esports programs. For example, the State University of New York (SUNY) saw 2,077 students enrolled in a SUNY esports program in the fall semester 2021, compared to 636 students enrolled in the fall semester 2020.
This growth can also be seen in other areas.
Lieutenant Kaitlin, head coach of esports at St. Mary’s University, shared a glimpse of the growth she has seen in college esports. “In recent years (2017-2020). I’ve seen tremendous growth within the college esports space, ”Teniente told TechToSee. “There is an increase in universities and colleges investing in esports programs and providing support to student organizations or clubs, and an increase in esports competitions available to meet increased demand. Some contributing factors include support for university esports competition from game developers and universities investing in esports programs as a tool for retention and recruitment.
A 2019 report who surveyed 281 leaders from Kindergarten to Grade 12 and higher education institutions around the world found that schools are embracing esports curricula for several reasons, just as Teniente pointed out. Respondents said their esports programs have helped improve on-campus experiences and boost student recruitment and retention in general. Student recruitment was reported as a factor by 41% of those surveyed.
Much like the esports industry as a whole, collegiate esports is growing with the support of schools and external organizations like the National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE), which offers membership to over 170 colleges and universities that have their own esports leagues.
Kenneth utama, former director of Dota at UBC Esports, notes that college esports are also growing alongside the broader esports industry. “Most of these [university] clubs may have been around for a long time, but they are now growing due to the entry of esports into the mainstream, ”Utama told TechToSee. “For example, the University of British Columbia Esports Association has been around since 2012, but it’s really taken off in recent years. As college esports clubs grow, schools are more willing to invest in them.
College esports and a bright future
Esport as a sector as a whole should see 29.6 million viewers in 2022, these figures will only increase in the years to come. Apart from the increase in the number of viewers for esports, those working within the college space have good prospects for the future which include increased growth in areas such as scholarships, additional investments in esports programs and a continued growth of the community that can be found in the players themselves.
Tarvis malone, director of esports at Trine University and a former esports player himself, can speak directly about the growing community of his program.
“Speaking from my personal experience of attending our conference, [collegiate esports] has become a fellowship and family within our games. Recently we had our offline conference playoffs for the first time and I can say that the students and staff appreciated everyone being here. Malone said. “They were able to speak in person rather than on Discord. It’s okay to have disagreements, debates, rivalries, etc., but it’s so much better to be in person to better understand everything.
– Trine Sports (@TrineESPORTS) 20 November 2021
In person or online, college esports communities only seem to be growing. During Utama’s time at the University of British Columbia, the school sports Association grew to have an extremely large Community Discord server.
Alongside the community, scholarships have become an important factor for students. According to NACE, over 200 member universities provide more than $ 16 million in esports scholarships each year. For Utama, he hopes to see a growth in scholarship offerings from schools in the future.
“I really hope to see a lot of growth. College [esports] will become more and more important as schools begin to accept esports into their folds, ”Utama said. “The hope is that someday students can get full / partial scholarships to participate in esports. For a lot of college organizations, I guess this would be the biggest change to expect over the next few years.
More growth to come
As collegiate esports leagues move forward in building comprehensive arenas, the future of the industry appears to be supported by the universities themselves. But we might also expect to see more investment in terms of recruiting, funding and further consolidating the space as a whole, according to Teniente.
“For school (high school) and college esports, I would expect to see more active and vocal parents when it comes to esports recruiting pipelines from high school to college,” Teniente said. “In terms of growth, I think we will see more LAN events on college campuses, more universities will invest in their own esports programs and a consolidation of college esports leagues.”
College esports may fall under the larger umbrella of the esports industry, but it’s clear that the college space has a strong presence of its own with an ever-growing support behind it.
Universities began to give serious support to esports programs that were initially student-run clubs. The investment in these programs is reflected in things like scholarships that help fund educational opportunities for student-athletes, as well as the formation of larger organizations to help support the industry, like NACE and Tespa, a organization that serves as a network for students.
But a final note from Teniente reminds us that college esports also continues to develop within a much narrower framework: with the people who make college leagues and competitions possible.
“When we think of esports, we may think only of players and competition, and not consider all the roles necessary to support players and competition, such as marketing and brand managers, event coordinators, team leaders, broadcast and production teams, etc. Said Teniente. “When we expand our scope within esports, I think it attracts more talent and generally more people who otherwise might not have considered being a part of esports (players included).”