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UNCG's esports arena
UNCG is slated to open its new state-of-the-art gaming facility this semester.

UNC Greensboro is breaking into the world of esports with a multifaceted set of initiatives to seize the growing demand among students for a holistic approach to the booming industry.

Esports’ popularity has been on the upswing for years. Industry experts predict the global esports market will exceed $2 billion in 2022 with close to 300 million participants.

And UNCG is setting students up to succeed in the multi-billion dollar industry through a comprehensive set of academic, social, and cultural experiences. With the construction of a new state-of-the-art, on-campus esports facility and the launch of several unique esports academic programs and resources, UNCG is positioned to be a leader in the study of gaming in North Carolina.

But what will students take away from these esports initiatives? 

Community and a better understanding of the world, says Dept. of Religious Studies’ Dr. Gregory Grieve and Dr. John Borchert, director and associate director respectively of UNCG’s new Network for the Cultural Study of Videogaming, a one-of-a-kind hub that connects scholars and students at UNCG and beyond who are interested in studying video games through research, curriculum, programs, and scholarship. 

For Grieve and Borchert, who have been studying video games for years, the launch of UNCG’s esports initiatives is an exciting opportunity to foster a sense of community and collaboration on campus while using video games as a “golden key” to think critically about the world around them.

“When I first started studying video games, people would say, ‘How can you study video games? Isn’t that just entertainment?’” says Grieve. “Data shows that videogaming is bringing in more revenue than film, music, and books. I would make the argument that novels were the way to understand the 19th century; film and television were the way to understand the 20th century, and I believe video games are going to be how we understand the 21st century.” 

Beyond being a subject that is relatable, palatable, and enjoyable for students to study, Grieve and Borchert describe video games as a cipher to understand how our current culture works.

“Video game experiences already influence other media like film, pop culture, fandoms, and even business and economics. The cultural study of video games extends far beyond the console to shape our sense of the world, how we interact with each other, and how we interpret the world around us. I like to tell my students that we’re living in a gaming culture – games are the dominant form of media. So, whether you consider yourself a ‘gamer’ or not, being able to understand and analyze video games critically is going to be crucial to your path moving forward.”

What kinds of tangible skills can students learn from studying gaming? Borchert explains that video games can help students translate our current digital landscape.

“I think we’re in a climate where critical media analysis is more important than it’s ever been because we’re bombarded at every angle with new media sources that seep through every device and screen around us. With gaming being such a big part of this new media landscape, that helps students be able to decipher valuable information; understand trends, algorithms, and procedures in current media use; and be able to think critically about the social reality around us.” 

Take a deeper look into esports at UNCG:

GAME-CHANGING ACADEMIC PROGRAMS 

Designed by experts to help students land jobs at different entry points into the nearly $2 billion industry, UNCG offers unique academic programs and initiatives for those interested in esports.

Esports Digital Certificate Program

A new, non-credit bearing digital certificate program tailored by industry leaders offers six, four-week courses ranging from game design to marketing and monetization to complement undergraduate education with in-demand skills specific to the esports industry, including: 

  • Esports Ecosystems: Past, Present, and Beyond Gaming: Learn about the history of esports, the evolution of the field, and new avenues for alternative revenue streams.
  • Athletic Content and Viewer Engagement: Examine the idea that esports is not just about the competitive athlete, but more about the fans and how to create community and engagement among them.
  • Hype, Engagement, and Sponsorship: Learn about fan engagement and how to leverage sponsors and use data to determine appropriate strategies to employ.
  • Esports Team and the Details: Learn how to motivate athletes to improve their performance, offer training techniques and the latest technological advancements, negotiate player contracts, and articulate expectations for all stakeholders.
  • Tournaments: Design to Execution: Learn about various games as well as the associated communities, designs, and organizations. Examine budgeting, pricing, and fee structures associated with successful tournament execution.
  • Money, Money, Money: The Revenue Strategy: Engage in the development of a sponsorship package and the value proposition for esports.

Learn more at esports.uncg.edu/certificate.

Esports Management Concentration

Launching Fall 2022, undergraduate students pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management can opt into the Esports Management concentration, designed to prepare individuals for careers in esports administration and management with a focus on esports operations. The business degree will provide students with a strong foundation in the functional areas of business with additional major coursework that dives into the dynamic business of competitive gaming. Courses include promotion management in esports; esports, meeting, and event tourism; diversity and equity in hospitality and tourism; and more to train Spartan graduates on how to make esports events and tournaments profitable for business, organization, and communities. Learn more at bryan.uncg.edu.

Network for the Cultural Study of Videogaming

A unique hub that connects scholars and students at UNCG and beyond who are invested in studying videograming and their cultures, the network facilitates existing research and curriculum with programs and initiatives that highlight videograming and its scholarship as a rising force that places UNCG at the forefront of this cultural landscape. Founded in Fall 2021, the one-of-a-kind network is made up of faculty from across campus, representing a wide variety of disciplines. The network platforms events and programming, such as speaker series and student-facing common gameplay experiences, to sustain the cultural study of videogaming at UNCG. Learn more aas.uncg.edu/ncsv

GET YOUR HEAD IN THE GAME 

UNCG is slated to open its new state-of-the-art gaming facility this semester. The esports arena will be on campus, centrally located in Moran Commons. It will feature:

  • 36 gaming PCs 
  • 3,300+ sq. ft. 
  • 3 gaming console bays
  • a VR Oculus Rift Headset 

Here’s a sneak peek:

Spartans can also get involved with the esports and gaming club on campus, with nearly 100 current members – and counting – actively competing in games like League of Legends, Super Smash Brothers, and Overwatch. Many compete at the ELITE level. Their games can often be viewed on Twitch at twitch.tv/uncgesports. Check out the gaming club on SpartanConnect.

And members of the campus community that are interested in esports and videogaming are invited to participate in upcoming programming and events surrounding esports, including a speaker series coming out of the Network for the Cultural Study of Videogaming and an Esports Night at The Greensboro Swarm. Check out these upcoming events:

“Once More with Feeling:” The Implications of Human Flourishing in Video Games with Dr. Nick Bowman, Texas Tech University

Feb. 10, 6 p.m. 

Join Guest Lecturer Dr. Nick Bowman as he discusses the maturation of video games over time,  recent studies on the eudaimonic potential of video games, and the implications of this interactive eudaimonia for various domains of research and public policy. Register for the virtual event here.

My Home is Where My Esports Team Plays – The Notion of the Nation in Esports and Gaming Cultures in Europe with Lisa Kienzl, University of Bremen, Germany

March 17, 12 p.m.

Join Guest Lecturer Lisa Kienzl in a discussion of the notion of the nation and the role of power hierarchies as well as value systems in relation to identity formations in the field of esports in Europe. Register for the virtual event here.

UNCG Esports Night at The Greensboro Swarm

March 31, 7 p.m.

UNCG Esports Night at the Greensboro Swarm will be held on March 31 at the Greensboro Coliseum Fieldhouse. Meet members of the UNCG Esports student group, play an NBA2K game onsite, and enjoy the Swarm taking on the Maine Celtics at 7 p.m.  Swarm’s game day ticket holders can enter to win give-a-ways from UNCG. Give-a-ways include 20 passes to the Esports Arena, and a grand prize of a Nintendo Switch OLED. Individuals associated with UNCG are not eligible for the give-a-ways.

“I Left Valheim for This?” The Gaming Cultures of Valheim

April 29, virtual

This virtual conference hosted by the Network for the Cultural Study of Videogaming invites proposals for papers on a broad range of topics surrounding the presence of Valheim and the broader cultural aspects of history, religion, literature, and games that it explores. Whether a first-time player or a wizened warrior, we invite papers and panels on topics including but not limited to: the construction of a Viking culture, sacred spaces, Gods and religious figures, myths and history, industry, capitalism, the imagination of/and nature, processes of othering, survival game mechanics and tropes, death and respawning, communities of play, and more. This conference will be an opportunity to create a cohort of scholars of Valheim, with possibilities for later publication of the proceedings. To submit a proposal for a twenty-minute presentation, please send a 200-word abstract and C.V. to Shari Merten skmerten@uncg.edu by Feb. 28. Accepted presenters will be notified by March 11. With questions, please contact gpgrieve@uncg.edu or jwborchert@uncg.edu.

Story by Alexandra McQueen, University Communications
Photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications

 
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