EDUCATING ESPORTS: ESL and University of York announce partnership

The University of York, an internationally regarded university and member of the UK’s “Russell Group” has announced a partnership with ESL, premier tournament organiser and largest esports organisation in the world.

Also included in the collaboration is Digital Creativity Labs, an “£18 million EPSRC/AHRC/Innovate UK-funded research initiative focusing on the convergence of digital games and interactive media and one of the biggest games research labs in the world”.

The collaboration will pave the way for a variety of esports related teaching offerings, including a module in esports content production, as well as BSc and MSc dissertations on esports.

We spoke to Rob Black, Senior Product Manager at ESL, to find out more.

Naysayerz: What are the interests of ESL supporting education, is this the next step for esports?

Rob Black: I think that as the global leaders in esports, we’re always looking at how we can help improve the industry. Sometimes that has to be relatively agnostic, and doesn’t always directly result in a profit for ESL. We see this education drive as a way to help everyone in the industry benefit from new talent coming through.

The long term outlook for esports is really positive at the moment, the growth we have seen over the last few years has been absolutely phenomenal, and the changing landscape means we have a lot more roles, in ESL and in a lot of other companies in esports. And these roles need to be filled not just by people who have passion for esports, but also have relevant skills to contribute to the industry. Perhaps some of the other courses we have seen cropping up recently have been guilty of ‘jumping on the esports bandwagon’ rather than having a clear goal in mind, that there needs to be a pathway into the industry. Our intention with York is to give a clear pathway into the industry of structured learning, from ESL ourselves as the industry leader.

Naysayerz: Talking about you being the industry leader – there has been this crop up of other courses recently. Staffordshire university recently announced their esports degree. How important is it for ESL, the industry leaders, to actually get involved in education, and making sure you are using that experience to give this enriched learning development for young people?

Rob Black: I think the company having 18 years of experience in running esports tournaments and broadcasting and things like that – it’s vital that we are involved in the conversation with educators to ensure that the right things are being taught to students. At this stage of the industry we personally feel that further education is the right place to be.

We want people who are well rounded with a multitude of transferable skills, that then can specialise in a certain area of the industry: it might be that they work in production, or sales, or project management. And those degree programmes are already there, they exist and there are universities in the UK that are astounding at teaching those elements but they might not have the esports expertise.

And that’s why we’re working with the University of York to create an esports module that tags on to their theatre and film area of education, and that will then give them a nice segue [for a] student or future employee [to go into] esports. I think that colleges and schools at the moment should be more focused on esports participation, and the way that kids are engaging with the industry as a whole, and get them passionate about working in the industry in the future. And maybe 10-15 years down the line, we might perhaps see some further education courses cropping up, for some things like working in production, that could have courses that would work for that.

Naysayerz: That sounds incredible, and I’m looking forward to seeing that development within further education. But what at the moment will you be bringing to the university of York?

Rob Black: So we’ve basically got our main three pillars, [which] I think I’ve already touched on, on the teaching side of things. But we’re also going to be helping the University of York on research. They’re one of the really heavy research focused universities in the UK, and so DC labs, which is one of their media labs and research labs, will be looking at how to improve particularly broadcasts, DATA APIs and things for the esports industry, which I think is really exciting. We feel that, as industry leaders, we can really help contribute to – for ESL, and for everybody else within the industry – that kind of research-led learning.

Naysayerz: And what are you looking forward to the most about this course, and being involved with it?

Rob Black: I think from a personal point of view: education’s really close to my heart [because] my Mum was a teacher. I think it’s going to be really awesome – I’ve already taken a couple of masterclasses up there, but I’m really excite to be able to be getting involved with actualy reaching to students about an industry I’m really passionate about. So I’m really looking forward to just getting involved.

Naysayerz: Well excellent. Thank you so much for your time. I look forward to hearing a lot more about it as it rolls out!

Rob Black: Thanks very much.

The Daily Download is broadcast LIVE every day at 2PM BST, discussing all the latest news and views from the world of esports. You can watch it online on Twitch, or on your TV on Sky channel 470 and Virgin 290. For more information on where to watch us in your country, click here.

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