As the multimillion dollar industry of esports co

first_imgAs the multi-million dollar industry of esports continues to grow globally, students at the University of Alabama are working through a class to organize their own events and learn how to be successful in the expanding industry.WHAT ARE ESPORTSShort for “electronic sports,” esports are video games played in a competitive manner. A few popular titles include:Battle Royale games like Fortnite, Apex Legends and PlayerUnknown’s BattlegroundsFive-versus-five games focused on teamwork and skill like League of Legends and DotA 2Team-based games with a war theme like Call of Duty, Overwatch, Counter-Strike and BattlefieldOne versus one-focused fighting games like Tekken and Street Fighter, or games with a team focus often played one on one for tournaments like Smash Bros.Deck-building card games like Hearthstone, Gwent or Magic the Gathering: ArenaSports games like FIFA, Madden and NBA LiveNot all people who play video games are interested in esports or playing competitively; most just play because video games are fun. WHAT IS STREAMINGAnyone with a video game console or a computer can sign up for a free streaming service like Twitch or take advantage of similar options from YouTube or Facebook. But what started out with people showing off their video game skills and chatting with like-minded people has become a resource where fans can interact with those making art, cooking food, teaching or doing, well, anything really.Alabama professors Randall Huffaker and Kenon Brown approached game-streaming service Twitch shortly after the company was bought by Amazon in 2014. The professors’ goal was getting the company involved with their senior advertising and public relations campaign class. But their contact at Twitch suggested they start a college initiative at Alabama instead.After reaching out to several esports groups around Alabama’s campus, Huffaker gauged their interest in the idea. The university then signed off on a three-year contract with Twitch for the program. That contract evolved into the class Mass Communications 495, which focuses on Content Market Communications on Twitch.“The class is great,” said Jarrod Stisher, a senior taking the class who also streams for UA Twitch. “I’ve always wanted to do esports and stuff like that, I just didn’t know the avenues to become pro. So, I was just like, you know what, I’m not going to worry about it, I’m just going to worry about my career. But now I can see a different side as to where I can actually join, you know, getting it together, running teams, stuff like that.”In the 2018 fall semester, several esports groups from around Alabama’s campus merged together under a singular identity, UA Esports. This one group represents hundreds of students who have an interest in playing video games casually and competitively. The group and the MC 495 class have begun working together to create content for the channel, host tournaments and build an online presence through social media.“A lot of this is I delegate to students to do, to help organize,” Huffaker said. “Cause again, you need them invested. I can’t do everything and I shouldn’t do everything.”One of the largest problems for students interested in pursuing competing in esports or creating digital content on Twitch is the lack of support and reward for the investment of their time. While the organizations hope to gain sponsorships soon and monetary support from the university, they currently are self-supported.“At this point is there any benefit to the individual? No,” Huffaker said. “Is there any benefit to the college? No. The college is not bringing anything because we don’t have an audience yet but will in time. And that’s what I told everyone on the first day is ‘congrats. You get to be the first one. You get to be the pioneers, you know, the first men on the moon.’ Unfortunately, no one’s going to remember your name and you’re not going to see the benefits that hopefully two years from now students will.”For a lot of his students, Huffaker said the class presents them with a unique challenge. Many came in without an understanding of video games and hadn’t yet heard of the now multimillion-dollar global industry of esports. If these students truly want to succeed in the field of advertising and public relations, Huffaker said he believes they need to be capable of quickly learning about new industries and adapting to the needs of any client.“If you’re in advertising or PR, you’re typically used to working on different clients every day,” Huffaker said. “So, if you’re in advertising and PR you’re used to switching gears and learning. If you’re good at it, you learn everything you can, absorb yourself into that industry. What it is, what they do and understand the benefit behind it. You may never understand it to the depth of those people who live and breathe it, but you should at least be able to have a conversation and understand it.”Being a senior in college, Stisher said he doesn’t have a lot of time for streaming because of other commitments. But his passion for video games has only increased, and after working in the class, he said he’s excited at the possibility that he can turn his passion into something more.“So, me knowing about this, sees the money in it while some people on the outside don’t see where this could go,” Stisher said. “They just see, ‘oh he’s just playing a game there can’t be any, there’s no money in that.’ It’s just fun, you know, but there is definitely more to it.”last_img