How esports can open up rewarding careers and change lives...
The professional pursuit of video games? Jack Fenton, the University of Warwick’s Head of Esports, talks us through what esports is, the opportunities for careers, and what how it’s changing lives in Warwickshire.
Since the start of the pandemic, ‘esports’ has been a buzzword in businesses and households alike, as many turned to video games to entertain them during a continuously difficult time. However, this concept and excitement is not a new development and not simply something that spun off from the pandemic’s housebound restrictions.
Importantly, esports is quite different to just ‘gaming’. An esports game, or to compete in esports, must mean there is a winner and a loser. The game is person vs person and often in teams of three to six players (five being the team size of most of the highest paying game titles). The buzz around esports is not just around playing or making games, but around watching, experiencing and being part of it in the same way a traditional sports fan would.
So, it’s not something that spawned due to household pandemic boredom. In fact, esports is comfortably in its third decade of established professional competition, with tournaments dating as far back as an Atari’s Space Invaders tournament in 1980. By 1996, championships such as ‘EVO’ had been born and continue to be a worldwide competition between professional athletes and watched by millions. For example, the League of Legends World Championship had a peak viewership of four million concurrent viewers, with each athlete sitting on six-digit salaries.
When the word ‘athlete’ is thrown into the mix, that often gets a sharp reaction, often a mix of frustration and confusion around the lack of physicality in playing video games. However, chess, darts, and many other largely static sports do exist and the players at the top of their game are considered athletes because of their training and professional commitment to the sport.
Top level esports professionals train for hours-on-hours each day, with a normal day starting with gym and sport conditioning coachinleading into structured training and drills. To support them, teams have a large backroom staff that consists of coaches, psychologists, nutritionists, physios, and everything else a traditional sports team would need.
To then support that ecosystem of teams, organisations need lawyers to negotiate contracts, marketers to develop and sell their brand, managers to coordinate the talent, video and content staff and any other job you can imagine.
This is why the University of Warwick has developed their Esports Centre, and why Warwickshire County Council are working with us to deliver our Esports Futures and Inspire Through Esports initiatives that use this growing industry and appetite for games to teach essential digital skills and educate people on the opportunities in such an exciting world of work.
The Esports Centre at the University of Warwick is a publicly accessible (yes, open to the public every single day) cutting-edge facility and social space that is built to adaptably support high-level esports performance while also being an educational space for outreach work with schools, colleges, and youth groups. We are home to the back-to-back-to-back university champions, as Warwick students have won (and continue to win) the British University Esports Championships every year. Between the students and the staff here, Warwick has become a national leader for esports innovation and our delivery as part of the Warwickshire Brighter Futures programme is a great showcase for how this platform can benefit Warwickshire more widely.
During the programme, the young people organise, take part in, and create content from an esports tournament. Along the two-day process of doing that, they learn essential graphic, video, and organisational skills as well as working in a communication-intensive in-person team environment. To top it all off, mentors from the esports industry attend each experience to share their pathway and to motivate the next generation of digital innovators.
There’s a lot happening at the Esports Centre and to everyone reading this, we’re sure there’s a way you can get involved and benefit! Whether that’s rocking up and playing, bringing your family, signing up for one of our youth programmes, or a business partnership, then get in touch! Come in and visit or reach out via our website, warwick.ac.uk/esports