Getting Started with eSports

January 29, 2021 |  Data, Students
2 min

Thinking about starting an esports program? Hear from Dr. Ray Pastore on why gaming is the next big thing and how to get started.

We caught up with Dr. Ray Pastore, the Associate Professor of Esports, Instructional Technology, and Online Teaching and Learning at the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW), to talk about esports programs in higher ed. 

Here’s what we learned:

Gaming is Virtually Pandemic-Proof

While traditional sports programs were shut down for extended periods of time in 2020, esports was largely unaffected. Students were still able to practice and compete remotely, and viewership actually grew.

In fact, last fall UNCW introduced two Esports certificate programs, one graduate and one undergraduate.

Low Startup Cost

The esports industry is still young, but according to Dr. Pastore, will be the standard across university and college campuses before we know it. The average 7-15 year old today plays video games and watches others play on Youtube and Twitch.

For schools who are unsure of the investment, it’s less capital intensive than starting a traditional sports program, which usually involves infrastructure like a field, stadium or court. With eSports, schools can start small with facilities to support just a few teams to gauge interest.

Gaming Supports STEM Majors

Building a community of gamers in higher ed institutions is a great way to support STEM majors. Students who major in biology, computer programming and hard sciences may not have other communities to join on campus. 

Typically students are part of an underground gaming community that’s overlooked by the larger campus community. Starting an esports program can help bring that community to the surface, integrating a difficult-to-engage student group to campus life. Esports can increase school spirit, empower underrepresented student groups and can even be a marketing tool to attract more students into STEM programs.

Use LabStats to Jumpstart Esports Programs

A key challenge in launching university esports programs is knowing which games to support. What’s popular in professional esports competitions may not be what your students are already playing. 

Dr. Pastore shared that data from LabStats can help you see what kind of games your student population plays. LabStats computer monitoring software can surface the games and time spent playing on campus machines.

Once you know what your students are interested in, you can start forming teams around 3-6 popular games. 

You can also use LabStats data to track your return on investment, the growth of your program in number of players and time spent, and practice time for individual players.

To learn more about how to use LabStats data to form or grow an esports program, schedule a walkthrough

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