S1:E3 Dr. Ray Pastore – How data can impact esports
Dr. Ray Pastore is an Associate Professor and Esports Program Coordinator at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. He shares how IT teams can support new or existing college esports programs and how esports will evolve in higher education.
He also talks about how IT professionals can support new or existing college esport programs, and how he thinks the f
Derrick Hirschi 0:00
Hello everyone and welcome. I’m Derrick Hirschi, Technical Support Specialist here at LabStats and I’m joined today by Dr. Ray Pastore, an associate professor and eSports Program Coordinator at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Many people might say eSports are still kind of in their infancy, they’re still up and coming, what data insights do you think would be valuable to someone who is running an eSports program?
Dr. Ray Pastore 0:22
So we are all about data. Everything, every decision I’m making is data driven. So there’s so many different types of data that interest me. So, I mean, we can start from like a lab perspective. Like, what am I interested in? If I’m running an Esports arena or an Esports lab, I need to have use, I need to have time…what people are doing. Specifically focusing on the eSports part, what game are they playing? Any kind of data that I can get will help me show return on investment of my program? [That] will help me show return on investment of my lab? [That] will also help me make decisions for purchasing, budgeting? What kind of teams do we possibly want to have? Do I see students are playing some kind of new game? Any kind of data like that will help me drive those kinds of decisions. But the big thing is marketability, and just getting that to show the university like, “Hey, X amount of people are using this lab or using our stuff or are interested in gaming,”. Any kind of statistics like that are going to be extremely useful for us.
Derrick Hirschi 1:23
Well, then I think there’s so much of a…in many places, you end up with kind of a bias against gaming and gamers…”Oh it’s a waste of time. Oh, it’s…you should be focusing on something that actually has a future,”. You know, that kind of…you hear that all the time.
Dr. Ray Pastore 1:35
Yeah. And there’s a couple ways to go. And you know, what you just said, look at that there’s the Yes, as a coach or captain of a team or director of a program, you need to… your students are on a schedule. So you have to make sure they practice X amount of hours, but you don’t want them to just spend every single second in the lab either. So you have to monitor that. So all of that goes into that. And you know, when people say that gaming maybe is well, maybe not a great thing, we have to remember if we start talking to Elon Musk, or the late founder of Apple Computer, Steve Jobs, or any of those people, Bill Gates, Steve Wozniak, about how did they get interested in tech? Where did that come from? Every single one of them, attributes it to their early days of playing video games. They wanted to learn how to design and create their own game and learn how to program and that brought them into the next level of things.
Derrick Hirschi 2:29
Yeah, being able to see once when students are using University resources to practice or to, or to coordinate or to just hone their skills. You can see what games they’re playing, how long they’re playing, when they’re the focus time, stuff like that.
Dr. Ray Pastore 2:41
Absolutely. And those are all important stats that you need. I mean, that really helps. Every decision is data driven. And you need that data in order to make these decisions, especially for your administrators, your boards, all the people who control that money.
Derrick Hirschi 2:56
So keeping with the topic of data, how do you actually measure a student athlete’s performance? Is it related to personal wins and loss ratio? Is it related to their observed skills? Or is it more of a team-based thing? How do you measure that?
Dr. Ray Pastore 3:10
Yeah, that’s a great question. So there’s lots of ways you’re going to measure performance. So first of all, yes, what you said, you’re going to measure win-losses and basics…that’s like the, you know, the high level stuff, and everyone’s gonna see, but on top of that, you’ve got to measure like, what are their interactions? Like? How do they interact with their team? Are they a good team player? Are they non-toxic? Like, what kinds of things are they writing [or] typing? How are they using that communication element within eSports? [That’s] super important. And then in addition to that, their GPA, and what kind of student are they in addition to how well they play? But it goes into everything. How they practice, how they perform, how they perform with a team, how the team performs, their GPA, their communication. There’s a lot of things that are going to go into that equation.
Derrick Hirschi 3:52
And so you mentioned GPA, you know, traditional sports have a lot of, you know, you’re required to keep certain grades or certain amounts of study hours and stuff before you’re able to compete. Does eSports have the same kind of thing? Or is it still too young of a discipline for that to be really set up yet?
Dr. Ray Pastore 4:08
It’s too young, and it’s coming. We’re not part of the NCAA and I don’t foresee that happening eSports is the Wild West right now. There are several organizations really leading the college charge and high school charge and middle school charge and professional charge. We’re all in this wild west of it, but you know, the GPA requirement is up to the university to set it. We do have one set and it is something you have to pay attention to and keep track of and that with GPA goes into students’ study hours, student play time, how long are they allowed to practice? How much do they need to study? What kind of grades do you [need]? There’s a lot that goes into what kind of person is this?
Derrick Hirschi 4:47
Okay. And how do students try out for an Esports team is there is there kind of a process they go through? I imagine this is probably pretty individual for the organization as well.
Dr. Ray Pastore 4:55
It’s absolutely going to be individual for the organization, but there are a couple things. So the first, most basic thing that you’re going to want to do is you’re going to look at the students’ rank in general, because most of these games the students are playing all have their own ranking system within the game. So the first thing you do is look at all the students’ rank [in the] position they play. That’s the basic thing that you look at, but then you have to talk to them and make sure: are they the type of person that you’d want on a team? Because just because someone’s good in a game doesn’t mean that they’re not a…you know, not great on a team. So they might be good individually, [but] not good on a team, you have to make sure people have the right mindset and ability and really want to do it and be on the team. So are they willing to go by the universities’ ethics and really represent the university and make sure that people are non-toxic, and they want to work with others and do well.
Derrick Hirschi 5:46
Okay, how do you measure the success of the program at large? Is there…I mean, it’s, I don’t know how many competitions [they are]. Other sports have this constant set of scheduled competitions, scheduled games, scheduled matches with other colleges. How do you measure the success of your eSports program?
Dr. Ray Pastore 6:04
So it’s going to vary by the size of the eSports program and the goals because there are eSports programs that are just kind of like a club that are more for marketing and fun for students and a community place. And that’s part of what we have at UNCW. But then there’s the competitive side, which is more about: how are we doing? What are our wins and losses? How are we doing? Who are we competing against? And how are we doing against them? How much are we practicing? And that’s where we start to measure that success. And then there’s the academic side of eSports, where we look at: how many students do we have in a program? And how much money is that bringing to the program and university?
Derrick Hirschi 6:40
Okay, how do you encourage or develop…I’ve always wondered this, how do you encourage or develop a student to a specific game or games of their choice? There’s 100 million choices out there for eSports? You know, and they come and go like crazy?
Dr. Ray Pastore 6:55
Derrick Hirschi 6:55
How do you figure out what games are a good fit for students? Or maybe the game they’re playing…and you’re starting to recognize “This might not be where you should be? Let’s try you over here.” That kind of thing? Is that something that happens in eSports?
Dr. Ray Pastore 7:07
So one of the things that your software does is tell us what games students are playing and most universities that are setting up eSports? While there are competitions in all kinds of games, we need to know what kind of population we have? Because that’s how we decide what games we’re going to play. Because as you said, there are 10 or 20 different competitions for different games happening. So we’re not going to compete in all of them. We’re going to pick maybe three to six. So I need to find out what games my students are interested in to form teams based on that interest. So that’s how most programs are really starting up and working right now is that we are picking. And there are…yes, there are some more popular games that you’re going to have a larger audience for. But there are also smaller ones that that’s happening as well. [It] really just depends on your university and your level of interest and engagement that you have with the students towards that game.
Derrick Hirschi 7:58
I see. I see. So at what point does it change from encouraging a college kid to play video games to something greater than that?
Dr. Ray Pastore 8:08
Well, it all depends on the person and their goals. So let’s say I take just a general student that’s interested in the gaming community. I may actually push them towards marketing or management or teaching or whatever their goal is, and figure out how to incorporate gaming and eSports into that end goal. But when you start to take the student who is doing exceptionally well, and starting to be recognized [and] having a large viewership number in streams and performing really well in competition, you’re going to start to encourage them to enter that professional level. And we have students at UNCW that are doing that, that are working towards becoming a pro or they’re semi-professional, and they’re working to get at the highest level.
Derrick Hirschi 8:52
Is there a discernible threshold that they cross when it becomes, you know, it’s one thing to be competing in eSports. But then you’re looking at this, a student in front of you going “Man, you can go somewhere,”. How do you know that?
Dr. Ray Pastore 9:06
Oh, yeah, I mean, it’s just like any other sport, let me just take the most basic thing of running like someone can run really fast, and someone can run super, super, super fast and just blow everyone away. Same thing in eSports, you notice the same kind of thing. They’re, they rank up in the game way higher and significantly faster than everyone else. It’s the same with baseball, they can just hit home runs and hit them farther than everyone else. And they just stand out. I mean, they stand out. You know, and we have a lot of really good players. And there’s a lot of really good players out there in the college scene. But when you have a few of them that are the highest, highest level, I mean, I’m talking like top 500 in the world. They really stand out in the servers based on who they are and what they’re doing.
Derrick Hirschi 9:50
So and…another thing that I’ve always been very, very curious about. It seems like there’s a new esport, a new big name game every four months. And [it] even switches genres as well. How do you…how do you choose which game? You mentioned this a little bit? You know, it was kind of up to student choice in some cases. But is there a method you use for kind of determining, “We really need to focus on these games, we think these ones are going to be the big ones.”
Dr. Ray Pastore 10:19
Sure, you know, there’s a, there’s a top three, big popular eSports, game, top three, top five, whatever you want to say game that is going to be very common across universities, and those are the games you focus on. But you know, there are new games coming out all the time, but a lot of them are like, part two of the previous game. For example, the latest Call of Duty game just came out. It’s like, the next one of the current game.
Derrick Hirschi 10:43
Number, like 16, or something like that overall.
Dr. Ray Pastore 10:46
Yeah. So it’s not necessarily always like, you know, League of Legends has been around for over 10 years.
Derrick Hirschi 10:51
Dr. Ray Pastore 10:51
And it’s the number one most competitive game, you know, so you know, we were watching Overwatch, they’re coming out with Overwatch 2. We’re excited for that. But yes, new games do come out and you just kind of see, “Is this game going to be an esport? Like, is this game going to be competitive?” Do we have enough students that are going to like what is…and as you mentioned, like Twitch the viewership numbers for that game are important too. Is this a top 10 channel at Twitch? But if only, like 1000 people are watching it each day, it’s maybe you don’t want to compete in that game. So you’re not going to have interest. But if you see that there’s 200,000 people any hour of the day watching that channel, you’re like, “That’s probably…there’s something there.
Derrick Hirschi 11:30
Is there any value to cross training in game?
Dr. Ray Pastore 11:32
There’s not really cross training, but it does work similar to other sports where, like if you’re a soccer player, and you’re really good at running, you maybe can pick up another sport that is somewhat similar. And that’s no different from eSports. A lot of the professionals for example, some of the top pros have switched, they switched…they were Halo players, which was a first-person shooter, and then they switched to Call of Duty or now they’re the ones playing…they’re the best in Fortnite, or the new game Valorant. So that skill of being, [of] having that hand eye coordination on the keyboard, the ability to act fast, the strategies, all are applicable. The ability to aim really fast with a mouse. So some of those skills are going to transfer across the game. But yes, you have to learn the new rule set. And you have to be able to play under this new rule set and new maps and new game types. You know, when you’re talking about an eSport, at the professional level, it’s just like any other sport where like, the littlest error…like in golf. Like a golfer misses one putt, and they lost the tournament because of that one putt out of 36 holes or whatever. eSports is no different. It’s like you missed that one shot, you might lose the game, like your whole team might lose, because you missed one little one-second thing. It’s the same kind of thing. So yeah, you have to be on point,
Derrick Hirschi 12:53
Changing tracks a little bit. North America’s eSports infrastructure, you know, the coaching, the talent, the programs, etc. They’ve been criticized a bit as being underdeveloped compared to other countries like maybe other regions like maybe China or Europe, or Korea especially. Do you believe that it is underdeveloped here in the United States compared to those regions?
Dr. Ray Pastore 13:13
I think we’re catching up. I think sure, like a country like Korea, man, they are on top of it. They’ve got the investment, they’ve got the games.
Derrick Hirschi 13:21
Well they’ve been doing it for so long.
Dr. Ray Pastore 13:22
Yeah. And that’s the thing they…you know, we were doing it a long time here too. But it didn’t become as popular as it did there. So…just culturally, they were able to make it something more. And it’s happening here, and it’s coming. And it’ll come. Like I’m convinced that as viewership grows, as financial opportunities grow, as investment opportunities grow, it’s going to come but companies need to see a return on [investment]. They need to see money, and they need to see dollars, and they need to see the viewers. So it’s all going to come and it’s happening fast. And it’s happening in a lot of different directions. So people aren’t sure what this is going to look like in a few years. Like, who’s going to take over? What’s going to come? Like, when is it going to all come together? So we’re all kind of waiting for that magic moment to happen. Where we’re like, this is it. Like, you know, when the NFL became the NFL? Like, when is eSports going to become that? We’re piecing that together right now.
Derrick Hirschi 14:15
And what can we do to kind of close that gap with others you know, between other countries. You always hear, you know, such and such Korean teams won or a Chinese team won. North American teams are there too. But how can we keep moving forward to close the gap?
Dr. Ray Pastore 14:29
Well, you know, it’s interesting playing against other countries because some of these countries have different rule sets and like they’re not allowed to have chat or sometimes they’re not even allowed to play certain games. So there are very different restrictions. And game popularity is different across these demographics as well. Like, if you look at some of the other countries, mobile games are huge and one of the biggest parts of eSports. Where in North America, it’s not…mobile games aren’t as popular as they are overseas. So, game popularity is different. And there’s a lot of ways that we can compete, but some of these countries have…are already…the investments’ there. Where they have kids living in a house and their life is doing this and competing, whereas we don’t have that as much here.
Derrick Hirschi 15:17
So can you speak a little bit to the development and the structure of eSports at universities specifically? Like let’s say you wanted to get an Esports program off the ground? How do you go about getting buy-in from an administration who may not see this as a “What do you want this to be college football?”kind of a thing?
Dr. Ray Pastore 15:36
Sure. So you know, the first thing I always will recommend is to make sure that you have support by at least some administrator and you start up small. Start a club, see what kind of interest you have. That’s how we started. And that’s how most programs are starting. They’re starting with nothing. They have a couple of students come together, form a team or form a little club and see where it goes. And what you find is all of a sudden, we have a Discord server of 330, 350 students, and we have tournaments where I can bring in 100 competitors, and all of a sudden that becomes that and people’s eyes light up like, “Wow, what is this? What is this thing, this eSports? What are these video games that people are playing?” And then you start to look at the research and you realize, “Wow, the students playing these games are much more interested in STEM careers. And if we want to introduce STEM to our students, having a gaming community at our university is a great way to do that. If we want to get students into computer programs, science, biology, any of those careers. If we want to increase school spirit. We have this community of students that are not being represented in high schools and colleges that aren’t part of the sport scene or whatever scene that’s happening. They’re they’re part of the underground gaming community and bring that up, let these kids be the star, you know, be the person we’re showing on the homepage. And, man, it just changes these students. They get excited and passionate, and you hear them talk about it. And it’s their lifestyle, it’s not just a thing, it’s a gaming lifestyle that they have.
Derrick Hirschi 17:02
That’s really cool. And it kind of answers my next question, actually, you know, is it I was gonna ask, is it possible for a smaller school like a junior college or a technical school to get started? It sounds like the way you’re saying even the larger schools are starting with nothing and very little recognition and having to start from zero.
Dr. Ray Pastore 17:17
Yeah, you know, absolutely. In fact, some of the best eSports programs out there right now are smaller technical schools that got in early or made the investment. Not a lot of schools…schools are afraid to make the investment or they’re not sure what the investment should really be. And then you have some schools building millions of dollars, like a million dollar arena. So it varies so much. But it is something that all schools are going to have. So they all need to be prepared and set up for it because it is going to be the next competitive thing that people are watching. I mean, if you look at the demographic of the 7 to 15 year old kid. They are home watching someone on YouTube or Twitch stream their favorite video game. They’re not [watching TV]. That’s what they’re watching. That’s their form of entertainment. And that’s going to carry over to them being students and eventually adults.
Derrick Hirschi 18:07
So you think this is going to be…this is going to penetrate all levels of university academia, academic system, just like other college sports. You think this is going to be that big?
Dr. Ray Pastore 18:16
Absolutely. And the cool thing about eSports is it doesn’t necessarily, it doesn’t necessarily have the costs associated with it that other sports do. So it’s much more budget friendly for universities to start up. I mean, assuming they don’t have like a $5 million arena, you know, obviously, budgets can get overboard really quick, but there are ways to do it in a much more budget-friendly manner.
Derrick Hirschi 18:38
And fewer injuries!
Dr. Ray Pastore 18:40
You know, things like that make it much easier where even during COVID like we’re able to just everyone’s at home, we’re all still practicing, playing, competing, talking, nothing’s really changed. It’s just we’re not face to face.
Derrick Hirschi 18:51
So I’m kind of curious what the effects of the pandemic have been?
Dr. Ray Pastore 18:54
So good and bad. There’s been positive and negative effects. I’ll start with the positive: yeah, online viewership is way up. We’re learning we’ve been forced to learn how to have more online tournaments which is a great thing. Even though we always had online tournaments, just how…the logistics of it for a smaller university. Well, we’re like a midsized university. But how do we do that as a college because we more or less always focused on the big things and how do we bring those small online tournaments to the community and, you know, viewership and Twitch and other people are really giving it a chance that really hadn’t before and thought of “Oh, wow, there’s there is something still happening out there when everything shut down. And games were a thing that people could turn to during the pandemic. So they didn’t go stir crazy sitting at home. So there were a lot of positives in that regard. And, you know, now negative things that happen in the industry are there aren’t any more live events, like, there’s not ticket sales. So like there’s money lost, these stadiums are sitting empty. So like there’s a loss just like every other industry had when you’re talking about that kind of thing. So you know, there was good and bad to it. So did it impact the industry. Sure. Maybe probably more positive than negative though. Yeah. eSports in general was able to continue but like some of the big huge events that we attend, that our teams want to go to, just couldn’t happen, because they’re a lot [of] face to face. And so like big conferences, and now they’re not getting…they didn’t make any money in 2020. So are they going to happen in 2021? Like, I don’t know what their budgets look like. But that kind of stuff definitely impacted the industry for sure.
Derrick Hirschi 20:29
So changing tracks a bit again, here. Is it possible for a single game to have that kind of staying power? The only one I could think of that came anywhere close was Starcraft, but that was quite a while ago at this point.
Dr. Ray Pastore 20:43
Yeah. And it’s still played. And it’s still a competitive game. not as big but it’s still played. You know, that’s a good…that’s the million dollar question. I mean, I should say, that’s the billion or trillion dollar question. I don’t really have an answer to it. You know, do games have staying power? Look, League of Legends is still the number one game. And it has been going for over 10 years. So, the thing is, the game is going to have to change and adapt where you’re right. It’s not like baseball, that baseball is baseball. It’s football, football is football and it doesn’t need…there’s not like a big change. So maybe what happens, if I’m thinking about this from like, more like…maybe it’s more like genre. eSports has become like the first person shooter game, regardless of what it is. And it’s more like, instead of saying football is like saying first person shooter and or MOBA or whatever, more about the genre of the game and less about the specific game itself, you know. And also a focus on who are the stars at the time just like we have baseball and football hockey stars, who were the who were the big people? Who are the stars, the time? You know, that’s where the focus is. And it’ll be interesting to see how that does work, because that’s one of the biggest issues in defining eSports as this completely separate industry from sports is that what is the staying power of an individual game?
Derrick Hirschi 22:07
You know, I wonder if it’s just there’s too many games trying to get a piece of the pie and that as such, we end up with every six months, there’s a new one that’s dethroned. its predecessor.
Dr. Ray Pastore 22:18
You know, it’s more about the genre. So people interested in MOBAs are going to continue to play League of Legends and whatever the big MOBA is at the time, and nothing has been able to come close to that except maybe DOTA 2, which is also another popular game. Same thing with the battle royale like we have Fortnite and a few others, but I think that a lot of those big games stay big for a pretty decent amount of time. I think when a new game comes out, sometimes it gets a little hype, and maybe it has hype for a couple months, but it never comes close to that big game. And those you can’t really make a game after it’s…you can’t like remake League of Legends. Like it’s just not gonna happen. The game’s been out for 10 years, it has so many billions of dollars invested into the development of it that in order to compete with it, you’d have to be able to beat all that out. And it’s so difficult to do that. It’s why no one’s been able to dethrone World of Warcraft as an MMORPG. Like nothing has been able to dethrone that because the game has been out for like 20 years, the game’s constantly improved. League of Legends just in November, maybe October, November, completely redid their interface, changed all their graphics, like the game is being updated for better machines and different things. And you know, they’re constantly adding improvements. So to be able to beat it is pretty tough. I think it’s more about the genre and that some people are interested in first person shooters. Some people are interested in NASCAR, some people are NASCAR eSports, some people are interested in NBA, 2K’s. So it’s more about the genre, similar to every other sport, I mean, similar to sports, but I like the look of the sports like track and field. Where like, there’s the long jump, the javelin, there’s a whole bunch of different things that go…
Derrick Hirschi 24:01
Yeah, that makes sense.
Dr. Ray Pastore 24:02
into it… And, you know, it’s less like just a football team where you have coaches and defense and offense and all that stuff. It’s more like track and field where you have a bunch of different events and a bunch of different cool things happening and you can kind of see where you fit in and what you’re interested in. I mean, even if you’re not interested in the game, it’s really cool to go and watch like a player who’s just like dominating.
Derrick Hirschi 24:23
Dr. Ray Pastore 24:23
Like in any sport. I’m interested in golf and why like…but anyway, even if I’m not interested in the sport, just to go watch the game and see the team and figure out what’s happening is a pretty cool thing.
Derrick Hirschi 24:34
And so it sounds to me like you’re kind of saying it’s less about whatever the huge game of the day is and more about looking deeper and finding out which games have maintained a steady audience
Dr. Ray Pastore 24:46
Derrick Hirschi 24:46
Whereas you know, we might get a flashpoint from from a game that there really doesn’t stick around for very long but that’s all anyone talks about, it’s all the memes are about, it’s all anybody discusses, even though really it’s still League of Legends or you know, Fortnite that really has the staying power.
Dr. Ray Pastore 25:02
And the money that goes into making a game a successful esport is enormous. So the chances of a small independent game doing that are hard, because in order to make it an eSport, you need to create a tournament around it. And in order to get people to play the tournament, you have to have nice prizes. And that all leads to people wanting to play the game they want to win. So, it becomes this, “How much money do you have to make this happen?” So it’s difficult for a game not performing well, to really make it big all of a sudden. You have to perform well, and then your game will…you’ll get the money to actually have big tournaments and create a big user base.
Derrick Hirschi 25:40
Right. So other sports are other sports we kind of been talking about, they have kind of a linear progression, right? You’re going you’re you’re starting out with maybe middle school, you move into high school sports, you get a lot of recognition there. Move into, you get recruited by college, move into a college program. And if you can really shine there, you can make it into professional games. But you and I were talking a little while ago about how some of these students are already professionals.
Dr. Ray Pastore 26:05
Yeah, absolutely. And that does matter. And you know, the progression in eSports happens in the game itself and in the competition. So like there are ranking systems in the game. So that’s where that progression is happening. It’s not like, you know, I mean, a kid that is nine years old, turning on League of Legends for the first time is in the same ranking system, as the top professionals. They’re competing, literally, I mean, they won’t ever play together, because their scores are too different. Their backer, you know, they’re what’s called their MMR. Their background score is too different, but they’re in the same league competing. So it’s not like football, like an eight year old football player is never able to compete at the same…in the same kind of tournament or league that a top professional football player in the NFL is. Where in Esports that happens. Which is why an eight year old can be really good and climb the ranks and get to a point where they are playing at eight or nine or ten, those top people. It’s a possibility for them. Because, the background, and everything is there, the infrastructure is there for them to do that. Now, once they reach that rank, they have to go compete in an actual tournament so it becomes up to their parents to enter them and all that kind of stuff. But the possibility is there for those kinds of people to do that.
Derrick Hirschi 27:20
How does a student… I mean, students who are coming in maybe to college, right? My understanding, and we talked about this a little bit…the time when a student, where an athlete is at their prime, is probably a bit younger. You’re talking 17 to 24, or something like that.
Dr. Ray Pastore 27:42
Derrick Hirschi 27:42
Which means a student might be coming down the other side of an Esports career when they graduate college.
Dr. Ray Pastore 27:48
Derrick Hirschi 27:49
When they get there, when they get their degree…are there ways to support those students? You know, they’re coming out and what they’ve done with their lives might be coming to an end somewhat?
Dr. Ray Pastore 27:59
Oh, absolutely. So I mean that, you know, eSports has created a whole industry around new jobs for people who want to be a shoutcaster. And simply narrate tournaments or just different kinds of marketing or management. Managing eSports organizations. I just saw a job, and I’ve interviewed an eSports psychologist, who works with the teams to help their mental status during the game. I mean, we’re having…one of the guys teaching one of my courses this semester is an eSports entertainment attorney, he focuses on eSports law. And there are, you know, trainers, physical trainers who are training eSports teams who are, there are doctors who are the doctor for the eSports team, chiropractor for the esports team. There is everything…we’ve created this new industry around all these different positions. So, usually what I do, we start at a certificate program around eSports. And really, the certificate is designed to get students to learn about the industry, get some experience, like developing projects and, and actually build a little portfolio so that when a student like that graduates, they have a career to turn to. Let’s say the student is a marketing major, they get the eSports certificate they get, they get their marketing degree, and they have this name in eSports. And they leave and they’re going to get picked up by an organization to do the marketing, be the marketing person for them. So they have to find that career path, though, you know, based on their personal interest.
Derrick Hirschi 29:21
So we’ll jump tracks a little bit here. Let’s say you’re a university IT director, and you’ve got people in your university who are wanting to start an eSports team. Are there things that as as an IT director, you might be interested in? Things you might need to pay attention to? Or questions you should be asking about this?
Dr. Ray Pastore 29:39
Sure. So you know, I mean, my role is as a faculty member, but I have to work with our IPS which is called IPS at my university department a lot because they control the whole infrastructure that you’re going to play on everything about it, what kind of So first of all, what kind of technology is there like computer wise, like do you have machines that are actually going to run this stuff and then, do the rooms where you’re doing this…do the rooms have the electricity and the air, the type of air conditioner that are needed to cool down a room and run the computer so that room doesn’t blow up? You know? Do you have internet speed? And are you able to dedicate speed to those rooms? Because you know what if there’s a lag in that lab during a major tournament, you could have caused your university to lose a big game. You know, so everything about it, I mean, there’s so many things from a tech perspective that someone in an information technology role at a university needs to pay attention to. So they need to work very closely with whoever’s doing the eSports program and make sure that everything is meshed together and working nicely and well.
Derrick Hirschi 30:42
And even just system performance. I mean, the frames per second is so important. For the really high level, high level eSports athletes. You said in a previous call I was very interested in that sometimes you’ll have a separate machine that is running Discord.
Oh, yeah, no, you have to!
While you have nothing running on your primary machine. And I had never even thought about that.
Dr. Ray Pastore 31:03
I mean, this is running most of my stuff next to me, while I am playing. I have an iPad sitting next to me here I have…where’s my other laptop might be on the floor or something. But I have another laptop here that I run right next to me. I mean, I have to have multiple machines and my main machine has three monitors hooked up to it, just so that I can…because I’m…you have to…you’re trying to stream, you’re trying to record your game, you’re trying to have chat open and possibly be chatting.
Derrick Hirschi 31:30
And that has to be done on the primary machine.
Dr. Ray Pastore 31:32
Yes. So you’ve got to be ready for all this stuff. All this tech all these problems. So in addition to playing a game you like, become like a tech expert to learn how to run all the technology and how to record and what software do you need and lighting and backgrounds and so much stuff starts to go into it when you start to think about it.
Derrick Hirschi 31:52
Interesting. Man, this is just fascinating. So to kind of wrap up here, I’d like to ask you what you think the next five years in eSports kind of look like?
Dr. Ray Pastore 32:03
Yes, I can tell you what I think is gonna happen.
Derrick Hirschi 32:05
Dr. Ray Pastore 32:06
It could very well [be] different. If you would have asked me a year ago, if I thought that a stock like Tesla would be worth 1500% what it was, I would have said “No way.” And it is like it’s so difficult to predict in these tech, not technological fields, what’s going to happen. But things that I think are going to happen. One, I think that eSports viewership is going to continue to climb as people get interested in it. I think that the industry is going to define itself. I think that organizations at the middle school, high school, college and professional level, there’s going to be an organization at each of those levels that rises up and becomes number one, similar to what happened in MMA with the UFC.
Derrick Hirschi 32:46
Dr. Ray Pastore 32:47
Or any other new…if you can study any kind of new sport that has come out. There’s gonna be an organization that comes out and starts to run the show. Assuming that happens, I think that you’re gonna start to see a lot more of the money invested being returned. Like there’s a lot of people investing and just throwing money to in eSports right now, and you’ve got to think like, “How are you going to get your money back?” And so I think that that’s going to all start to come together. We’re gonna see organizations fail, and we’re gonna see organizations be successful. And there’s going to be a lot of ups and downs in that whole, it’s going to be a big roller coaster ride to the top, you know, it’s going to be a line up, but it’s going to be a roller coaster ride, there’s going to be ups and downs, you’re gonna see failures, you’re gonna see startups, you’re seeing already, seeing people start up, you know, software as a service companies around eSports. All kinds of software being released, you know, people are trying to really get in on the industry, be the T-shirt maker, have the brand that all the T-shirts.
Derrick Hirschi 33:41
All the merchandise,
Dr. Ray Pastore 33:42
All the merchandise. There are companies really out there competing for all that. So who’s gonna win? And, are people gonna buy it? And what are the interests? Like where, you know, one of the biggest questions is: where is the…how is the money? What is the business model of eSports? You know, that’s the biggest question right now. Because you have all these viewers, and how are you going to make money? How are teams, how are tournaments, how are game companies, how are publishers, how are all the people going to actually make a significant amount of money that just keeps growing? You know, and it’s figuring all of that out. And I mean, eSports is a whole different thing than traditional sports. Traditional sports, they’ve had 100 years to perfect, and create what they have. eSports started on the internet, basically, I mean, really, first competition in the 70s. But, you know, from 2014 when justin.tv became twitch.tv is when it really became much more mainstream than it was. That was my… when I say like a big change in the industry happened at that point. And you know, people are used to viewing it for free. Viewing it on Twitch for free. How are we going to monetize this and where is that business model gonna come in? I think all those are great questions that we are going to see answered in the next five years.
Derrick Hirschi 34:56
Interesting. Interesting. So it’s not college football, not yet. Anyways. You know, you said the Wild West, but that’s kind of the next frontier, that college program should be eyeing or thinking very carefully about.
Dr. Ray Pastore 35:06
Yeah, I mean, it’s going to have an audience. It’s not going to be like college. It’s not going to be and not to say a sport doesn’t have a good audience, but it’s not going to be one. It’s going to be much closer to college baseball, basketball, football, then other college sports. It’s going to have an audience. There’s going to be teams, there’s going to be people already wearing…I mean, I’ve got a UNCW eSports shirt on right now. And people are wearing them, people are buying them. So there is that sense of pride. It’s a community that wasn’t reached, and all of a sudden they are so yeah, that stuff is going to happen is going to…whether it’s as big as any of these other sports? I have no idea, but it is going to make a significant impact at least.
Derrick Hirschi 35:46
All right. Well, Dr. Ray Pastore has been with us. Thank you very much. I really appreciate you joining us for this tech talk. It’s been wonderful talking to you. Thank you so much for joining us. We really appreciate it.
Dr. Ray Pastore 35:55
Yeah, definitely. Great talk.
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