The explosive growth of collegiate eSports, part 2

How to develop a curriculum for the gaming workforce of the future

As of fall 2017, SUNY Canton began offering a Bachelor of Science in Game Design and Development program. The new major focuses on video game design, storytelling, and the production needs of the modern gaming industry. It has attracted a lot of attention, with some 250 applicants. More than 60 students were accepted and began the program this fall.

Recruitment and retention
We know that the more students get involved with the campus, the more likely they will be retained. ESports teams create community and help students develop the skills most sought out by today’s employers—the ability to communicate effectively and problem solve in collaborative working environments.

The addition of eSports is giving us a leg up in attracting talented students. One of our first game design students, Emily Oeser, changed her college trajectory because of our eSports offerings. Originally planning to transfer to a different school to pursue music, when SUNY Canton announced its gaming-related majors and eSports athletic teams, she decided to stay and turn her hobby into a career path. Today, she’s the captain of our varsity Overwatch team, is piloting an all-female Overwatch team, and is a leading honors student.

One of our first online gamers was Alex Royce, who played competitive League of Legends from his residence in Florida with his teammates in New York. We’ve since extended an invitation to our online community to participate on our newly established Fortnite team.

Making eSport academics a reality
Approaching eSports from both an athletics and academic perspective was a sure win for SUNY Canton, as we quickly recognized the potential of the gaming industry and the numerous positive outcomes it could have on our student body. Once that decision was made, the next step was ensuring we could support it. As with any digital initiative, having the right network infrastructure in place was critical.

We were able to move fast to implement eSports athletic teams and academic programs because of partnerships with companies including Extreme Networks. Extreme provides a high-bandwidth, low-latency wireless network to support our programs and enable flawless gaming and learning. With the support of Extreme, SUNY Canton built a dedicated eSports arena where on-campus students can convene, practice, compete, and connect with their online team members. Equipped with 24 Alienware gaming PCs and other professional gaming equipment, this will become an integral space for upperclassmen students to learn, design, and test their cutting-edge games.

As our program receives more interest and the market grows, we’ll look at integrating other majors that match well with our gaming program. One avenue is the broadcast and commentary of eSports matches. Our new eSports arena has a dedicated broadcast station where an announcer can livestream and host games over the popular platform Twitch. We’re also looking at creating additional new majors as we’ve done with Game Design and Development, including the eSports Management degree that’s on the horizon. We see eSports impacting a number of industries, and as the market develops, SUNY Canton is well-equipped to help students develop careers in this promising field.

Stay tuned for part three of this series, where Extreme Networks’ director of vertical solutions, Bob Nilsson, and SUNY Canton’s chief information officer, Kyle Brown, will delve into the technology required to build a gaming arena and support eSports programs.


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