All Play & All Work:
The Entreprenurial Mindset of Collegiate Esports Participants​

Research Track

10/08/20, 10:30AM - 11:00Am PT

About the Presentation

When considering traditional ball-and-stick sports, collegiate teams are a gateway to professional opportunities; while the rare superstar may proceed directly to the big leagues out of high school, most players use college as a time to hone their skills before going pro. In esports, however, the relationship between collegiate and professional leagues is more nebulous.

Given the young age of many esports competitors and the expectation that gamers rapidly age out of professional-level play, a direct path from college to pro appears less evident in the esports context. Therefore, we must ask: what career opportunities, including and beyond playing in a professional league, do collegiate esports competitors envision as a result of their involvement in varsity organizations?

We interviewed student athletes, university administrators, and other student shoutcasters from a newly created varsity esports program located in the Pacific Northwest to assess how students understood their identity as collegiate esports participants, especially if/how they imagined working in the esports industry after graduating. Interviewees outline a vast, interconnected gaming ecosystem on campus and in digital platforms such as Discord. This gaming ecosystem consists of various informal gaming clubs, student-organized tournaments, as well as university-sanctioned activities. Through these outlets, students worked to connect their esports interests to professional opportunities and skill sets. For instance, participants clearly articulated they weren’t talented enough to transition into professional esports leagues, but instead sought to leverage their participation in collegiate esports into tangential careers in various digital media industries. Student-participants also revealed a general lack of administrative supervision, due to limited staffing and the fact that many university administrators have no meaningful understanding of esports, meaning they were largely left to organize team activities and competitions on their own. This led, ironically, to an entrepreneurial mindset in which the students clearly articulated that they were honing skill sets that they’d use in their careers.

Of particular importance here is the collaboration between the esports athletes and student journalists in which students came together on their own accord to develop the skills and technology needed to increase the production value and quality of the streamed competitions. Student journalists used their experience to help esports athletes broadcast and promote their competitions, while the athletes granted access needed for the journalists to develop new skills as shoutcasters and other commentators. These preliminary results suggest not only that esports have a different college/pro relationship than traditional sports, but that collegiate esports provides tangential opportunities to enter various professional esports scenes. This highlights that researchers interested in the mainstreaming of esports, and collegiate esports, need to include other grassroots organizations and clubs into their area(s) of study.

Authors

Mr. Harris, Brandon SOJC, University of Oregon
Mr. Can, Onder, SOJC, University of Oregon
Mr. Hansen, Jared, SOJC, University of Oregon
Mr. Rahman, Waseq, SOJC, University of Oregon
Dr. Cote, Amanda, SOJC, University of Oregon
Dr. Foxman, Maxwell, SOJC, University of Oregon
Dr. Fickle, Tara, Department of English, University of Oregon