Recent events lead me to see if there was any research on esports and higher education. Surprisingly, there was not as much as I thought there would be. Obviously, the news articles and "experts" flooded the general search, but actual published, researched articles were not as numerous as I had maybe hoped. Most of what I saw related to the sports side of things; considering it a sport, which I believe it is, and how it can benefit intercollegiate sports within higher education.
Part of me now wishes I had waited to do my master's degree so I can write another paper or two about this.
Because while inserting a new sport or program of any kind is a great idea, making it thrive as a part of the university's culture is another. I'm not talking about the student side, which is still important, I'm talking about the nitty-gritty hierarchy, unwritten-rule politics that happens on the back-end.
In esports, as a profession, the political climate is way different than that of a higher education institution. I have seen this first-hand in helping BreakyCPK with his dealings, contracts, negotiations. I have said several times in several different scenarios that things would be handled differently if this was happening in a university setting. Good and bad.
Most publicly funded universities have a set of rules, regulations, processes, oversight etc... that esports just does not have. You have to be so very careful about what goes on during events and online for liability reasons. If anyone affiliated with a university said or did some of the controversial things I have seen professional esports players and streamers do, it would be an absolute nightmare for the university. Even Breaky, I find myself scolding him for things he says in certain ways, worried about potential fallout or repercussion. To which he normally replies, that's just how it is in esports.
Many well-intentioned higher education professionals jump right in to esports, with their eye on keeping up with what students want (recruitment and retention) and making a profit. They will hire either sports professionals who know a little about esports, or hire esports professionals or streamers who know little to nothing about higher education.
The former leads to an abundantly common misspelling of "esports" as "eSports" Ironically, it is the AP Style Guide, a leader in higher education writing standards that settled that argument a year ago:
AP style is esports for competitive multiplayer video gaming. Use alternate forms like eSports or e-sports only if part of a formal name.— AP Stylebook (@APStylebook) April 5, 2017
Many articles I dug up that were positive in nature talked about diversity of students as a result of introducing esports as a sports program. That, plus revenue generation, number boosting and overall increase of morale sets the tone that esports within higher education is a smart move.
Overall, my opinion is, that a well managed esports program at a higher education institution is a fantastic idea. With the proper amount of care, it can be a huge boon to the university. Like a very good football team, it can put the college or university on the map.
Sorry for rambling. I have all these thoughts that I have to stick somewhere. I have a unique insight to both worlds, and to see it become a possibility to merge the two is absolutely fascinating to me at the "data-loving-research geek" level.