This year, the global eSports industry is projected to grow to more than $900 million in revenue, a year-over-year growth of 38 percent. This fast-growing media empire holds promise of fame and fortune, involving big sponsors, sold-out tournaments and fan followings in the millions around the world. The state of Georgia is central to the industry, currently playing home to over 75 gaming companies, such as Hi-Rez Studios of Smite and Paladins fame.
However, becoming a gamer is not the only way to tap into this growing market. Georgia State University is helping students make the necessary connections to careers in the eSports industry, which can include social media management, eSports reporting, event management, game tester, team coach, business strategy and more.
Out of the initial 350 students in the school’s eSports program, only 20 percent wanted to compete. The rest were interested in things like broadcasting on live-streaming platform Twitch or planning tournaments, says David Mark Cheshier, Director of GSU’s Creative Media Industries Institute (CMII).
The CMII building, a space that focuses on training students in arts and media entrepreneurship and connecting them to Atlanta’s fast-growing creative industries, has an eSports/gaming lab for 15 people to tournament play; it will soon be expanded to even bigger capacity.
Following the unveiling of the eSports program last fall, the university became the 34th member of the National Association of Collegiate eSports. They also provided 10 varsity eSports players with a scholarship of $1,000 to go towards tuition.
In March, the program hosted its first livestreamed Twitch competition.
“We’re trying to blend experiential learning with workshops and collaboration with the GPB project, along with live broadcasting events so students get real world experience beyond the classroom,” says Cheshier.
The program offers workshops on how to become a newscaster, working as a tournament planner and how to build a social media branding strategy as it relates to the eSports industry. This fall, the school will partner with Georgia Public Broadcasting to develop a broadcasting bootcamp for course credit.
“One of the peculiarities of the eSports industry is that the collegiate system is not a precursor to professional play; generally speaking if you are able to play at a professional level you can do so pretty much from the moment you turn 18, and because so much of eSports is broadcast or otherwise online, it’s much easier to be ‘discovered’ than it might be in a traditional sport,” says Lucas Bailey, Assistant Director of the GSU eSports Program.
Bailey is responsible for the day-to-day operation, practice and competition of GSU’s three varsity eSports teams at GSU. He says he’s seen the interest and development for alternative eSports careers grow for the students on those teams.
“The eSports program has significant overlap with already-existing programs,” says Bailey. “What is entirely new is our encouragement and development of casting for eSports. A few weeks ago, we held an eSports tournament for GSU students, staff and faculty, with four students providing excellent commentary for the games that were played.”
Cole Gibson was one of those students in the school’s first tournament. A senior Journalism major, Gibson is pursuing his love for video games through a career as a shoutcaster, a live video game commentator.
“I have always loved video games. My first interaction with eSports was 2012 MLG Columbus, where Optic was playing Team Envyus for the Call of Duty World Championship. Although the games I’ve watched has changed, the love for games remains the same and it carries over to GSU where I joined our student gaming club and really found my niche.”
Gibson says that while he was an avid gamer, he never thought he was good enough to play at the varsity level. However, he watched games closely enough that he found a knack for live commenting and narrating during competitions.
He currently holds a freelance job as a shoutcaster online and often travels to tournaments, most recently to cast Epic 1.0, Minnesota’s first major eSports tournament.
“For shoutcasting and commentating, it’s all about opportunity,” says Gibson.
“While a lot of shoutcasting and making a career of it is front-loaded on the casters themselves, GSU is trying to bridge that gap by providing opportunities, and in some cases training, so we can grow and expand our resumes to get those big gigs you see thousands watching on Twitch.”
All photos provided by Georgia State University.