Digital Communities

Vocational Congruence for Esports and Gaming Video Content in Post-secondary Education

Abstract
The video gaming industry has grown reliably year-over-year since its inception in the 1970s. In 2018, video game revenue worldwide peaked at 43.8 billion USD (Anon 2019), surpassing the film industry’s 41.1B (Anon n.d.) by a healthy margin. As gaming’s relevance is cemented and its legitimacy becomes less of a debate, it begins to permeate other areas of the media, including competitive sports and traditional video content. Esports has seen an immense global market growth over the last five years, and as gaming video content continues to establish a strong foothold in streaming media, its influence on a wide range of careers is becoming more and more apparent—most noticeably in the broadcast media sector. Focusing on a comparison between the traditional application of broadcast media in education, and the need for integrative content production courses, this research examines and interrogates how and why post-secondary education places a disproportionate emphasis on game design and programming when considering game-centric careers. Through The Armoury—which introduces a framework for esports and gaming video content integration in post-secondary education, it is the aim of the researchers to provide the necessary insights to create vocational congruence for university courses that service students headed towards careers in the field of games media and esports.
About the Author
Stefan Grambart

With a career that spans over 20 years in film & television animation, computer gaming, and digital media, Stefan works with content creators, studios, and broadcasters to transpose their intellectual properties onto interactive platforms. He has built many successful and award-winning games and immersive experiences. Stefan is a highly capable and innovative concept developer, visual artist, writer, experience designer, and has been honoured with awards including multiple CSAs, a Facebook/Peabody, and a primetime Emmy. Returning for his Master's degree, Stefan has taken the opportunity to conduct research into emergent narratives and content creation for distributed audeinces both online and in VR.

About the Project

The emergent field of esports is expected to transform the outlook of the sports industry, reaching an overall market size of 2,174.8 million USD by 2023 (Top Market Reports, 2018).

With the average age of video game players being 18-35 years (Statista, 2019), there’s a correlation to student demographics across post-secondary education. However, course offerings at this level rarely reflect the diversity of career paths afforded by the esports industry, resulting in interested graduates who lack information about and/or training in the specific aspects of esports-related vocations.

Focusing on the differences between the current needs of broadcast media and the rise of esports-centric gaming video content (GVC) and the integrative content production model, this research aims to highlight the discrepancy between what students are being taught, and what the needs of tomorrow’s industry involve.

This research will then inform the design and planning of features for The Armoury—a proposed infrastructure and gaming facility within the Faculty of Communication and Design (FCAD) at Ryerson University.

Every day, more than 200 million people view gaming content on YouTube (Takahashi 2018). This content has become one of the most popular media genres on the internet, and is only growing. GVC covers anything from tutorials, play-throughs, challenges, news, or esports competition.

With the median age of post-secondary educators well outside the core gaming demographic (Government of Canada 2017), the problem is that faculty generally aren’t consumers of nor contributors to the gaming community.

While much of broadcast production involves students specializing in particular segments or even specific roles, the integrative content producer (ICP) has to have competency across a wide range of skills such as lighting, sound, editing, and in most cases playing games. Itf we take a look at traditional sports, the comparison would be that we ask the athletes to setup the recording equipment, record their own athletic performances, provide commentary, and address questions on social media—all while still competing in a game or match.

Advancements in prosumer audio/video technologies allows the home user to set up a quality recording studio at home. Unlike the traditional broadcast model that requires access to a full studio, the ICP approach brings the ability to produce content to a greater number of creators as costs keep shrinking. If we look at the statistics on podcasts to radio production, the shift towards prosumer content creators over the radio broadcaster/employee model becomes readily apparent; There were over 800,000 active podcasts with over 54 million podcast episodes in 2019 (Forbes, 2019), compared to the 15,000 commercial radio stations providing content in the same year (Statista, 2019).


Modern Facilities, Updated Curriculum

By creating a facility that provides students with a learning environment closer to industry standards gives them the opportunity to improve their skills across a number of relevant disciplines. This isn’t meant as a replacement for broadcast media curriculum, but rather as a supplement, that enables the curriculum to evolve and expand as the market changes.

While designing The Armoury, our group members were sure to integrate facilities for streaming—both as individual booths and a more traditional broadcast focused setup—for competitions and events.

By canvassing students interested in esports we discovered that there was a clear interest in bringing GVC content into the classroom, allowing students to better prepare for an industry that’s constantly evolving.

Streaming booths were designed to provide all the tools necessary for students to learn every aspect of ICP, and to allow them to put that education into practice creating GVC and other streaming content for a proposed Ryerson varsity esports program.

The area of the facility known as “Streaming Alley” kept in mind the community building aspect of ICP—not just from an online, social media perspective, but from a local student body angle as well. The Booths face a common area and have monitors mounted to display the content being produced. While privacy is always available, students can engage with their audience and learn how to effectively build a community around their content channel.

Advanced interactive technologies are also available for exploration within The Armoury. From picture-in-picture, live chromakeying, to simultaneous commenting/commentary and gaming are a focus of the streaming booths.

Production In The Post-Pandemic

Our current health crisis climate has uncovered many weaknesses including how difficult it can be to produce traditional content for film and television while practicing social distancing.

GVC production continues to flourish while broadcasters and OTT platforms alike are forced to put original productions on hold.

As we move forward into a post-pandemic landscape, we need to consider novel production workflows that minimize health risks with minimal impact on production quality, timelines, and budgets.

Similarly to how esports provided a needed outlet for physical sports and gaming during isolation measures, GVC and other integrative content production streams stand to have a major impact on the media landscape and it is essential that students are exposed to these production practices.

MY NEONORMAL STORY
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In our first semester, Robin Kang, Matt Zyla, Emily Lé, and I worked on a class project together that would eventually become The Armoury Esports Facility and the group project portion of our major research project. Working closely with Dr. Kristopher Alexander and students from the Department of Architectural Science we eagerly developed plans for an actual physical space on campus—something that would service the casual gaming community, support competitive varsity teams, host events, and provide facilities for students to learn streaming practices in a hands-on environment. That all changed when COVID-19 stuck in March. But while the necessary isolation may have hindered progress for working on-site, it also gave esports and gaming video content a global spotlight. With pro athletes turning to esports during the coronavirus lockdown, and Twitch witnessing a 101% increase in viewership (up to 1.6B hours watched per month) we’re seeing significant market growth and mainstream adoption. In a world that will invariably be altered by the current health crisis, the neo-normal will have to include a greater focus on integrative content production; by gamers, for gamers.