Gaming, once thought of as only a recreational activity, is becoming one of the most influential and rapidly growing industries with the introduction of eSports, which is expected to grow to $1.4 billion by 2020.
As an early adopter, SUNY Canton was one of the first schools to embrace that growth by launching a competitive eSports athletic program and joining the National Association of Collegiate Esports. But SUNY Canton didn’t stop there. As we were developing the eSports program from an athletics perspective, we also explored how eSports could connect online students with campus life. With more than 25 percent of our students enrolled online, eSports offers opportunities for this population to become student athletes and deepen their connection to the college community.
Student interest is matched by industry predictions. Across the world, eSports is growing at a rate of 40 percent a year. It is expected to top $1.5 billion dollars (U.S.) in revenue by 2020 with a global audience of more than 580 million. Employment of gaming software developers, graphic designers, virtual reality engineers, multimedia artists, and animators is projected to grow six percent from 2014 to 2024, according to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics. Job opportunities include sport sales, marketing, public relations, facilities operations, event and tournament management, announcers, coaches, etc.
In part one of this series, my colleague Randy Sieminski shared how SUNY Canton’s eSports athletic program came to fruition. In part two, I’ll cover how eSports grew beyond the athletic department and blossomed into an academic program that’s giving our students a platform to grow their careers in the emerging gaming industry.
New majors to support a new industry
With an already thriving student body that enjoyed gaming in their free time and as a school rooted in STEM education, SUNY Canton’s leadership realized that eSports could be an opportunity to reach and engage students not only on the “field,” but also in the classroom and beyond.
When we first introduced eSports athletic teams on campus, we focused on teaching the skillsets student athletes normally gain on the field: community, team building, and leadership. As we watched the market grow and flourish, we realized students also need to understand the business aspect of eSports.
Recognizing that we need to prepare students for the economic and professional opportunities generated by the sport of competitive gaming, SUNY Canton recently drafted a proposal for a new eSports Management degree. The degree focuses on the business side of this fast-growing industry. We also offer complementary and related degrees in Sports Management, Technological Communication, Cybersecurity, and Graphic and Multimedia Design to provide students with additional career paths to the gaming industry. Through these courses, we are teaching students about the business side of what goes in to managing tournaments and competitive play, the virtual and technology side of gaming, and the design that goes into making the beautiful games we play.