New e-sports program introduced at William Peace University

William Peace University's Esports and Gaming Administration program brings interdisciplinary instruction to a rapidly growing field

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By Abbey Slattery, WRAL Digital Solutions
This article was written for our sponsor, William Peace University.

The esports — or electronic sports — market is growing at a breakneck speed, with worldwide revenue expected to grow from 957.5 million U.S. dollars in 2019 to 1.6 billion U.S. dollars by 2024. If viewership continues at current rates, the industry is expected to bring in 285 million frequent viewers worldwide, in addition to 291.6 million occasional viewers.

At William Peace University, the new Esports and Gaming Administration program is giving students a chance to get in on this billion-dollar industry. Stemming from the school’s established Simulation and Game Design program, the esports degree also builds off of general support and incentives for infrastructure and tournaments across the state.

“It was a natural opportunity for growth, because it's such a big growth industry. Our approach to the program is very interdisciplinary. It’s esports and business administration, but students also take an upper-level psychology course, an exercise and sports science class, marketing and more,” said Roger Christman, department chair at WPU. “At its core, it's very much a business degree, but focused on this new growing industry, and how there's a need for people who understand it will step up as leaders.”

Chuquel Wright, a current student at WPU, switched his Simulation and Game Design major to Esports as soon as it was available.

“I was always more interested in the competitive side of games, rather than the creation portion. Once I was aware that there was a major specifically diving into the esports scene, I knew that I had to go with it,” said Wright. “You are never learning or doing an assignment that is not directly related and beneficial to what you will be doing in the future.”

Wright’s future plans include hopes to regulate streams for esports events on Twitch, YouTube Gaming, or another streaming service. The program's coursework, including mock esports events, as well as his role as captain of the Valorant esports team, has helped prepare him for this — not to mention the technology and opportunities that WPU offers him.

“I've looked at other programs, and there are really only a couple in North Carolina, but we're very interdisciplinary. On top of that, we have state-of-the-art equipment. Everything from our fiber optic line to our 10-gigabit server is all brand new, and the machines themselves are all Alienware,” said Christman. “We have a dedicated esports lab, where we already have a team that's been competing this year. They’re competing against much larger schools and still placing in some of the top spots.”

The school is also looking at joining NACE, the National Association of College Esports, as a Division II school. When they do so, the team will be the first Division II team at William Peace University.

For Christman, the small size of classes helps students become prepared in the fundamentals as well as the minute details. The interdisciplinary nature of the program also encourages openness to collaboration from a range of perspectives.

“What I really like about esports is that it has the leadership development, the collaboration, the teamwork and the strategic thinking built into it, but it's more inclusive in that you don't have to be a typical athlete to participate,” said Christman. “Having smaller class sizes and our outstanding faculty and academic support team helps us develop students individually. helps us work with students individually. We accept them where they are — whether they’re struggling to turn on a computer or already know enough that they could teach some of the class — and we take them to where they need to go.”

Part of the growing interest in esports and game design is the increased potential for application. As technology advances, fields like aviation, healthcare, manufacturing and more are able to leverage these programs. Gamifying training programs gives professionals the opportunity to deal with high-risk or stressful events before they might encounter them in real life.

From training to education to pure entertainment, game design and gameplay are only going to continue growing — and schools that offer these degree programs provide students with a unique opportunity to get in on the ground floor.

“There are these hundreds of billions of dollars and these big companies that are investing in this field — they see it, they know it's coming, and they’re needing a workforce to help support that development. We're wanting to create alumni who can go out there and be significant contributors and make these stories and simulations that are going to be valuable,” said Christman. “The big Fortune 500 companies already understand this, and a person who is educated and has experience, knowledge and understanding of how to put those together in a platform that can be delivered across many departments and organizations is going to be an invaluable member of a team.”

This article was written for our sponsor, William Peace University.

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