New esports program launched at U.S. university
A kid just won three million bucks by winning a Fortnite tournament. The total prize pool was thirty million dollars and the event – the Fortnite World Cup – took place at the Arthur Ashe stadium in New York City. Where did all that cash come from? Fortnite’s developer Epic Games banked $2.4 BILLION in microtransactions from players round the world in 2018 as they bought cosmetic features and unlocked perks in the game.
Prince Harry has famously called for a ban on Fortnite, claiming "It's created to addict, an addiction to keep you in front of a computer for as long as possible. It's so irresponsible. It's like waiting for the damage to be done and kids turning up on your doorsteps and families being broken down." He added that social media was "more addictive than alcohol and drugs".
But while video gaming is arguably not the healthiest thing a young person can do, for the very best it could be a road to being able to afford an awful lot of sneakers and gym memberships. It’s fast becoming a serious career choice for quick-fingered teens as the esports industry grows, new tournaments popping up all the time like zits on a 14-year-old’s face.
The tornado of esports has now touched down in the education world with the recent addition of an esports program at Ohio State University. It’s a typical case of the industry-driven nature of modern college education. OSU have sniffed an opportunity and are providing an industry-specific program to train a legion of esportsmen and esportswomen (there must be one or two, right?) ready to have a crack at those big prizes.
But there’s more to the program than training kids with the reaction times of fleas to trump everyone at Fortnite. While being trained as esports professionals, students will also act as guinea pigs for a raft of research. Here’s part of the OSU Department of Engineering’s mission statement about its esports program:
“Researchers across the University and at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center are the first to study the brains, bodies and behaviors of elite esports athletes. Through a deeper understanding of this relationship and the combined influences of this triad on an individual’s ability to perform a given task, researchers will discover ways to unlock new levels of human performance. This new knowledge will benefit student success, elite athletes and even patients.”
Specific areas of study may include esports management, game art and production, game design, programming, the business of games, and health and rehabilitation. In a classic case of educational backwards integration, the university is actively seeking input from industry partners to construct the most comprehensive programs possible.
Esports are here to stay. The International Olympic Committee are mulling its future inclusion in the Games (though not with violent games). Players practice as much as, if not more than, professional athletes. One well-known League of Legends team practices for a minimum of 50 hours per week. Esports professionals generally retire in their mid-20s as their reaction times fall away from peak.
When those wizened fossils are too ‘old’ to compete in esports, the Ohio State University program aims to give them skills to continue in the industry in other roles.