There’s increasingly big money in eSports, the nascent international industry of high-level gaming tournaments and professional livestreamers that’s projected to generate $1 billion in annual revenue by 2019. Later this year, it might even launch the career of one full-time college professor.
Administrators at Boston’s Emerson College are working to launch a program in eSports studies in the fall semester of this year as part of the college’s sports communications major. Next month, they plan to list a position for a full-time eSports faculty member.
“We hope it’s going to be one of the biggest programs in the college,” said Spencer Kimball, a professor of political and sports communication at Emerson who’s been helping to develop the curriculum.
The focus of the program, said Kimball and Board of Overseers member Joshua Wachs, will be on preparing students to take part in the auxiliary industries that will support major gaming events and infrastructure. That includes how to run and promote tournaments, organize teams, and understand the emerging business models of eSports.
They also intend to cater to a group of students who say they want to study to become live commentators at gaming events.
“Where do people make money?” asked Wachs. “Marketing, management, and such.”
The university plans to offer two or three eSports classes in the fall semester of 2017. The titles and topics are still up in the air, but Kimball provided the listing for an introductory course that will give an overview of the eSports industry's structure and market trends.
They’re also arranging a speaker series of industry insiders and software publishers, and are working with faculty to study the gender dynamics in gaming. Last fall, the college worked with a student gaming group to organize a Hearthstone tournament to test the waters.
“Gaming has always been interesting to me, but the online part is the game changer,” Wachs said. “Even though it seems antisocial, it’s a form of communication. There are people I’ve been playing games with for years who I’ve never met.”
Wachs and Kimball say they’ve identified a handful of other colleges that plan to offer material about eSports management and communication; the furthest along that they’ve located is at Western Kentucky University, which also plans to launch an eSports program this fall.
“For any of us to assume we know what this is going to look like would be absurd,” Wachs said. “What the curriculum will look like this year will probably be drastically different from where it will be in five or ten years.”