“Right now, our esports program is a club, so it’s extracurricular,” Bridges said, “but we are developing non-credit classes that students can take. We are focusing on non-credit classes because it offers students a low-stakes opportunity to try out careers that they’re interested in within the esports ecosystem and the gaming industry.”
The college is planning and designing innovative and flexible academic courses–short-term, four-week-, and eight-week-long; both non-credential as well as certificate programs–for esports, and in doing so building a pathway for students to complete their degrees; earn postsecondary scholarships; and recognize and explore ancillary careers associated with the industry, such as marketing, event planning, the apparel industry, product management, communications, graphic design, writing, game design, business, and more. Additionally, many gamers gravitate to the STEM courses and follow career paths in engineering and computer science.
“Our current pathway that has been approved by the state is for English courses within the esports ecosystem,” Bridges said. “The classes that we have are related to technical writing and understanding how English careers, writing careers, are related to esports. We’re working on developing classes that are related to game design within the English curriculum… how to develop characters, how to develop storylines. Also business writing. We’re hoping to expand these offerings into health; kinesiology, sports management.” Other courses Coastline is exploring include business, digital graphic arts, and more potential career pathways that could be related to game design and team management.
Threaded through these plans to expand and integrate esports into Coastline’s esports agenda is a commitment to equity, safety, and community with the awareness that there is toxicity in the gaming world–something that won’t be accepted in Coastline’s program.
“We pull our students together to have those conversations, to define those rules,” Dr. Emerson said.
“We can pull in our Title IX officer to make sure that the students understand all of the rules so that their environment for gaming is safe, their environment for networking is safe, and that building that community is safe. That was priority number one. Students participate in the gaming with the understanding that they do it with the college in the background and that they must obey those rules of making sure that we are equitable and inclusive in all areas.” In building the program around these principles, she explains, opportunity is created for student gamers who may otherwise not participate in a college esports program–especially female gamers–allowing them to exist, participate, and, if desired, pursue a career in the esports ecosystem, which is the ultimate goal.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic slowed down Coastline’s development of its esports program, Katherine Amoukhteh said they have proactively done a good job in growing participation. “Gamers don’t really like to do email and they definitely don’t like texts,” she said; what works is “finding them where they live.” To do this, they encourage participating gamers to spread the word while also talking with different teachers on campus about the program and what their goals are, how Coastline’s unique approach is that “we want to be inclusive, we do not want to be ‘competition only.’”
As Coastline College continues to build its esports program on a foundation of equity and inclusion, planning for the future is underway.
Bridges explained that they want to “expand the curriculum offerings that we have within non-credit courses and potentially create a credit-based certificate for students, so they can earn college credit as well.” Her enthusiasm and experience is helping to shape the college’s esports offerings. “I’ve been a gamer and I love it. I want people to see that if their passion is gaming, they can earn employment within those industries, and they’re amazing places to work. I want women, men, anyone else, all genders, all ages to see that this is something they can do.”
“We have plans to build pathways with four-year institutions to help students further their education,” Dr. Emerson added. “And we’re talking from middle school now because, as a community college, we engage middle schoolers and high schoolers. We’d like to build the program all the way back to middle school and carry it all the way through to the university and then into the industry as well.”