GSU students turn to esports as millennials drift from pro football, Super Bowl

By David Pendered

Some students at Georgia State University are likely to be among the younger millennials who skipped the Super Bowl on Sunday in order to focus on a different competitive sport – one in which the computer screen is the playing field.

esport

The ESPN website makes the distinction between esports, which is a set of games played online, and Fantasy, which is a set of games played by make-believe teams of athletes. Credit: espn.com

These students are part of the gamers and fans who get their kicks from esports and, to a declining degree according to a report, from pro football. And they get more than kicks from a genre so new that there seems to be little agreement over how it’s spelled – esports, Esports and eSports seem to be the most common.

Esports hold the promise of teaching skills that can help secure jobs and careers after college. These fields include broadcasting and production, the marketing of Esports and tournaments, coaching, student management and the actual development of games, according to a statement GSU issued in August 2017, when it announced the new esports program.

Against this backdrop, the controversies that embroil pro football can seem as far removed from modern life as the make-believe corn field Kevin Costner’s character converted into a baseball diamond in the 1989 movie, Field of Dreams.

Some have said the same of the Georgia Senate’s vote to pass a resolution that denounces the NFL for its positions related to players not standing during the National Anthem. The resolution describes pro football as representative of, “the very best of American meritocracy.’’

Here’s how GSU’s esports program was described by David Cheshier, director of the Georgia State Creative Media Industries Institute:

  • “The skills developed by eSports-interested students are the very skills most needed for success in the 21st century economy, including collaborative soft skills and computer coding. We see this initiative as building essential links to emerging creative careers in animation, 3D and immersive world creation, and other media industries.”
league

Georgia State University has announced a team of varsity athletes for its new esports team, which will compete against collegians from more than 30 other schools in a national league. Credit: leagueoflegends.com

As if to underscore Cheshire’s comment, spectators can watch GSU’s games through dedicated channel on Twitch, a livestream started in 2011 to showcase video games. The founders cashed in three years later, selling to Amazon for $970 million a platform used by 55 million-plus individuals, according to a report by businessinsider.com.

Amazon has expanded its holding, according to a report on livewire.com, and now offers shows with categories including such digitally evocative names as:

  • IRL, or In Real Life, which is a real-time chat room;
  • Talk Shows, which is a mix of live panel discussions and podcasts;
  • Cooking, which features cooking and food shows;
  • Creative, which is home to, yes, creative types including cospayers, defined by a page on mediamedusa.com as a subculture associated with, “Japanese pop culture, and that is indeed very much dominated by manga (Japanese graphic novels), anime (Japanese animated films), and video games (which often share aesthetics with the first two).”

GSU stuck its toe into the esports water by connecting students to the League of Legends and Smite competitions. Students on other platforms were invited to join, as well.

Last week, GSU announced that nearly 20 students made the varsity team. As such, they are held to high academic standards, must maintain eligibility at levels required for a HOPE Scholarship, and must adhere to the university’s Code of Conduct.

They team is to compete with other collegians from more than 30 other universities who, like GSU, are members in the National Assocation of Collegiate Esports, as well as other institutions in the Georgia Esports League.

GSU is fielding teams in the games Brawlhalla, League of Legends and Smite.

 

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

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