Assessing Esports: Its Time Has Come

Technology fueled and inclusive of all people, esports offers an opportunity to empower people who have too often been marginalized from competitive activities.

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Assessing Esports: Its Time Has Come

We could see the opportunities esports has created not only for AV pros but also for children in our communities. It's on us to help lay strong foundations and create successful programs, including developing a curriculum and furthering education. Framestock/

Honestly, esports wasn’t even on my radar until the end of 2018, when massive case studies from places like Harrisburg University and Full Sail University started to arise. I remember playing Sega, PlayStation, and Xbox growing up, but, for me, it was more about “Crash Bandicoot,” “NBA Jam” and “Halo.” Now, a raft of esports programs has helped take gaming to a new level — a level where you can actually build a successful career with esports. I believe that these programs are low-hanging fruit for our industry, representing an avenue to get a new group of people interested in AV. 

I remember at ISE 2020, where Panasonic had a full esports setup in its booth. That was when the light bulb began to click on for many in the industry, including me. There is a real opportunity in esports for AV professionals, and we had better not miss it! 

InfoComm 2023 attendees will be able to tour the facilities at Full Sail University. As of this writing, the Full Sail University Orlando Health Fortress Esports Arena remains the largest collegiate esports arena in the U.S. And, let me tell you, they’ve set the bar high with their state-of-the-art facility. 

Developing Expertise 

In AV, we’re constantly evolving and growing with the technologies we integrate — well, we should be, at least. Over time, AVI SystemsArthur “Art” Danner has fallen in love with this process, as well as with the technology that facilitates esports. “AVI Systems has grown its experience in delivering and designing esports venues through a combination of factors,” he explains. These, Danner adds, include “…involving and collaborating with our vendors who specialize in esports, staying up to date with esports trends and technologies, and building a strong and knowledgeable team.” 

Putting it in a uniquely advantageous position, AVI Systems already has a practice that specializes in broadcast. That practice, Danner says, has “…easily pivoted to learn and support this new endeavor.” He continues, “Working hand in hand with our partners, we have even helped to talk about the culture of the esports environment.” As a result, Danner notes, all parties are now better prepared to carve out a space that enhances recruiting, education and innovative gameplay. This is all part of pivoting and growing through new spaces and new technologies, which is what helps to keep brands and companies at the forefront of our industry. 

Bigger Than Tech 

Many of us are in the AV space because we love to geek out. But the more that I dive into esports and speak to people like Danner, the more I realize that this vertical is bigger than the technology that powers it. There is also a major opportunity for students themselves to thrive. “I had several jobs before getting into pro AV that worked around entertainment and live events,” he recalls. “There were a lot of interactions with the gaming industry before I landed at AVI Systems.” Unsurprisingly, then, Danner is passionate about esports. “I want to see it flourish,” he declares. “It was something I wanted as a child, and I would love to see my own kids be able to enjoy it.” Danner also lauds the universality of gaming, noting that it’s “…something that all kids can compete in together, regardless of gender, age or physical capabilities.” 

Headset resting on table with screen in background

Esports is bigger than the technology that powers its. It is also a major opportunity for students themselves to thrive. Tobias/

In today’s day and age, it’s nice to see competitions — for example, those involving drone flying or robotics — that a wide swath of students can enjoy. Danner sees that in his own home, in fact. He says, “My youngest kid can’t physically compete in sports due to his heart condition, and esports would allow him to compete on a team. And, to me, that’s the special thing about esports.” 

As all of us by now can see, many benefits have come from esports’ rise. Likewise, working within this vertical can be fulfilling in many ways. “The prospect of kids obtaining money for college, who would not have had those opportunities before, excites me,” Danner enthuses. “K-12 is starting to embrace this more and more. I’m seeing more kids getting money to go to college to play esports, and I love it.” That’s not even to mention that girls who compete in esports are more likely to choose a career in a STEM field. That fact directly addresses issues that all of us are striving to tackle in AV — namely, building a pipeline to create a more diverse workforce. 

“Smaller colleges and universities are bringing in higher recruitment numbers because [they are] deploying esports programs,” Danner notes. He adds that these programs are helping colleges and universities grow “…in ways that they didn’t realize, and [they’re] bringing more awareness to careers in STEM and gaming design.” 

Strong Foundations Take Work 

By now, all of us should see the opportunities that esports has created not only for AV professionals but also for the children in our own communities. It’s on us to help lay strong foundations and create successful programs, including developing a curriculum and furthering education around esports. “Esports needs people who believe in the growth of the program and want it to be sustainable,” Danner explains. “Esports is a sport. If the athletic department and recruiting are onboard and fully committed, it can be wildly successful.” Ultimately, he feels that commitment of this sort will strengthen the esports movement on the collegiate level and help all the programs prosper. And Danner believes that it trickles down to K-12 equally well. As he puts it, “When it comes to K-12, if you’re committed to good sportsmanship and the idea of improving your students’ future and helping them gain money for college, with this, I feel you can’t go wrong.” 

Yes, many can still perceive esports as fairly new, but resources are available to help develop these programs. “I want nothing more than to see these programs succeed and flourish,” Danner declares, adding, “And no one should have to go it alone.” If you want to continue this conversation, be sure to connect with Danner on LinkedIn or Twitter @ArtOfAV. And, of course, you can always reach out to me @thesmoothfactor. 

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