A career that involves playing video games might not seem like the most viable of job options, but it might just be the next big wave of an increasingly digital future.
In over 250 universities across the country, students are playing video games competitively as part of varsity esport teams. Playing games such as ‘League of Legends’ and ‘Overwatch’ is becoming more than just a recreational detour; it’s potentially a path to prosperity.
What is and what isn’t regarded as a viable career is rapidly changing, said Dr. Chris Haskell, clinical associate professor and the head esports coach at Boise State University.
“The jobs for most of the kids in high school haven’t been invented yet or invented in the way that they’re going to do them [in the future],” Haskell said. “It’s a moving target.”
Boise State University, located in Boise, Idaho, is the 18th university in the nation to implement a varsity esports program.
The website gamedesigning.org lists Boise State’s esports program as one of the preeminent such programs in the country.
Boise State’s esports team participates in tournaments against other university teams.
But esports involves more than just teams of gamers competing against each other; it also involves a wide array of crew members behind the scenes who work together to broadcast competitions to audiences across the globe.
Esport production crews include technical directors, assistant directors, replay directors, lighting technicians, observers who run in-game cameras, live camera operators, stage managers, chat moderators and engineers.
“There really are tons of jobs and opportunities in new entertainment industries, [and] esports are really just one part of it. It’s an entertainment platform in the same way sports and music are,” Haskell said.
Boise State’s esports program enables its participants to gain production experience that will translate into careers after college, according to Haskell.
The Boise State program produces 200 hours of live esports broadcasting each semester.
“It’s the experience that makes the difference. We’re trying to give [students] really good experience. You don’t roll out of school and you’re at the top of your field. Experience is the key,” Haskell said.
Professional esports competitions draw huge numbers, according to a Goldman Sachs esports report.
The report, written in 2018, states that the esports industry generated $655 in revenue in 2017. The report estimates that esports audiences will grow to 276 million people by 2022, similar to the size of the NFL’s current audience.
Esports are anything but niche, Haskell said.
“I would push back against the idea of it being niche,” he said. “Patterns of consumption often hide the truth. When people hear that there were more viewers for the ‘League of Legends World Championship’ then there were for the Super Bowl, they say, ‘what?’ We are prisoners of our field of view.”
Parents who worry about their child’s dream of a career in esports should embrace rather than resist, Haskell said.
“Parents come to me all the time and say my son is playing too many video games, how do I get him to stop. I say that’s the wrong questions, the question is what’s next,” Haskell said. “It’s important for us to remember that this has been happening for over a decade, and our kids know about it, and many, many more of them are engaged in it. We need to be aware of it.”