Emerson College charting new territory with courses in Esports a project by aaron j. miller

With the revenue surrounding Esports growing exponentially, Emerson College is beginning to capitalize on the opportunity to become a frontrunner in the industry.

According to the college’s website, Emerson is one of four schools to offer classes in Esports communication. Students can declare a minor in Esports communication alongside their major. The minor teaches students the ins and outs of the Esports industry, from behind-the-scenes video production to “Esports-casting”—the equivalent of the sportscasting you hear during basketball, football, and soccer games.

In 2018, Esports brought in total revenue of $906 million—a 38 percent increase from 2017—according to Forbes.

Jon Francisco, a freshman visual media arts major at Emerson and avid video game player, said he thinks that gamers who dedicate enough of their time to what they enjoy deserve to get paid.

“Although Esports has become similar to mainstream sports [because] Esports are on ESPN now, it’s interesting to see because it would have been looked down upon before and now it’s come into the spotlight,” Francisco said. “People can make a living off playing games and it’s just entertainment, basically.”

Infographic created by Aaron J. Miller using Data from Forbes.

Emerson Esports, the college’s dedicated Esports organization on campus, hosts dozens of gaming events throughout the semester, ranging from small community game nights to highly competitive weekend tournaments.

Neal Sweeney, a journalism major with a minor in marketing at Emerson and the President of the Emerson Esports Organization, said he joined the organization as a video game coordinator and worked his way up to President in his junior year at Emerson.

A video game coordinator manages the configurations of an individual game to eliminate as many hiccups as possible, according to Sweeney.

In December 2018, Sweeney helped organized a collegiate “Overwatch” tournament at Laugh Boston, a comedy club in the Seaport District of Boston. The Boston Uprising—a professional “Overwatch” team—hosted the event and managed the live stream on Twitch, each individual gaming computer, and the ticketing page.

“Overwatch” is a competitive first-person shooter video game that sets two teams of six players against each other in various game modes.

The tournament set Emerson College, Northeastern University, University of Connecticut, and Boston University—the four best New England area collegiate “Overwatch” teams against each other. The four teams qualified for the collegiate cup by winning their respective groups in a 12-team tournament in November 2018.

Emerson Esports lost 2-0 to Northeastern University in the first round of the tournament. Photo by Aaron J. Miller.

The Kraft Group—the majority owners of the Boston Uprising “Overwatch” team—never organized a collegiate cup before and needed someone with expertise in the field to help the event run smoothly, according to Sweeney.

Sweeney organized the Boston Uprising Collegiate Cup with Kevin Mitchell, an Esports communications professor at Emerson College, and The Kraft Group. The three parties worked together for two months to ensure the event ran smoothly, according to Sweeney.

Sweeney said that he had been taking Michell’s Esports Events class in fall 2018 when he, Mitchell, and The Kraft Group organized the collegiate cup. Mitchell teaches Advanced Topics in Sports Communication: eSports Events, a 400-level course that educates students about “How to create, manage and operate eSports events and tournaments from inception through execution,” according to Emerson College’s online course listing.

Emerson currently offers a minor in Esports communication and is in the process of creating a major for incoming students to declare. In an interview with The Berkeley Beacon in December 2018, Dr. Gregory Payne, an Associate Professor and Chair Department of Communication Studies at Emerson, said the college plans to offer more courses and a possible major in Esports in the coming years.

“Emerson has been very pioneering—we are one of the few schools that have Esports in the curriculum,” Payne said. “Our department is very excited about sports communication, and a very important growing part of sports [communication] is esports. Right now, we have an Esports minor, and we are looking at having an Esports track within the sports [communication] major.”

Sweeney said the college will struggle to find the right configuration for the Esports major because the career path relies on many other individual professions and areas of study.

“In terms of creating a minor and a tract, it’s very difficult to throw it all under this umbrella titled ‘Esports,’ and you have to think about what that really means,” Sweeney said. “I think [Esports communication] could exist pretty well as a minor alongside a student’s other focus, such as video or marketing, but as its own thing, it’s such a multi-armed-beast that is hard to put under one umbrella.”

Infographic created by Aaron J. Miller using data from Forbes.

Sweeney said the communications department at Emerson is beginning the process of hiring faculty with a focus in Esports communication. He said he helped the college in hiring Stephanie Orme, a professor in the Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies.

Sweeney encourages students interested in Esports to join the organization because of the real-world experience that it offers.

“People who show up [to Esports organization meetings and events] are immensely valued,” Sweeney said. “We have a new head of competitive who is always open to starting new teams. For people who want to get involved, I say just show up on our Discord server and just say hello and say that you want to do things. If you put in the hours, you can do it.”

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Aaron Miller


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