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UNCG to organize high school-level esports league

The School of Education at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro., tags: uncg high school-level esports - CC BY-SA

The University of North Carolina at Greensboro is looking to establish a statewide high school-level esports league to increase students’ interest in the tech industry.

“We believe esports is the shiny object that gets students interested in the curriculum,” said UNCG associate vice chancellor for learning technology and client services Todd Sutton.

The university currently has a competitive gaming hub in North Carolina and is looking to expand the reach of its esports program. Sutton said that UNCG planned to create the first “curriculum-driven” esports league in the state. He said the school would host various tournaments and events to incentivize competitions and get students interested in participating in the program.

UNCG’s esports plans

In April, UNCG opened an esports arena and learning lab, which soon became extremely popular among students. Sutton said that “students lined up around the building” for the opening.

Video games and esports by extension have experienced rapid growth over the recent years, with over 465 million watching live-streamed gaming in 2021. Sutton said that esports had surpassed traditional, professional sports in terms of popularity.

UNCG now offers a non-credit certificate in esports, focusing on managing tournaments, dealing with sponsors and managing fan engagement. The classes focus on hospitality and tourism in the esports scene. Additionally, the university once ran a week-long esports summer camp for nine to 14-year-olds.

UNCG has also partnered with Epic Games to teach students how to use the company’s Unreal Engine. Next month, the school faculty will be trained in the use of the engine. The school will host one of three Unreal Engine accelerator programs in North America.

Education and esports

Stephanie Orme, a visiting assistant professor of Communication & Media Studies at Emmanuel College, said students generally welcomed esports-related projects with more enthusiasm and motivation than traditional projects. She argued that since the students were the ones taking the lead in the projects “they get really invested and take pride in it,” promoting independence and initiative. Programs that have students planning and running events lead to opportunities for the students to get “hands-on learning opportunities” with logistics, organization and other related skills.

“Because esports is so intertwined with technology, students are given a lot of opportunity to develop skills that are in high-demand in today’s technology-driven industries, both within and beyond the esports industry,” Ome, who is also a user experience researcher at Key Lime, said.

Orme added that while the experience gained from organizing esports activities was invaluable to put on a resume for students pursuing careers in esports or gaming-related fields, the skills were also transferable to different industries.

“I am a huge advocate of student-led projects, so when I have worked with students on these events in the past, the students are the ones really running the show,” she said.

“I tend to step back and take on an advisory role, making sure students are meeting deadlines and paying attention to logistics. What I love about it is it gives the students a sense of ownership over what they are doing – they get really invested and take pride in it because the outcome is a direct result of their passion and hard work.”