Getting A Gaming Education – How To Study Video Games & More
Planning your life after high school can certainly seem overwhelming, even if you have a clear goal in mind. A survey found that affordability, availability of a desired program, reputation/academic quality, career outcomes/job opportunities, value of education for cost, feeling of fit and proximity to home are the seven key “decision segments” on the minds of aspiring college students, according to “The 7 Things Students Think About When Choosing a College” for The Chronicle of Higher Education.
So, even if you know right now that you want to become a professional gamer, you still need to figure out the path that’s best for you. The tricky part is that there is “no single path after high school that is right for everyone,” according to “5 Best Degrees for Gamers” for Stem Jobs. “While a traditional four-year degree is required for some jobs, there are others that require an apprenticeship, certification, or associate degree.”
Some colleges and universities have specific gaming degrees, while others have different types of degrees and training that can put you on a path to a great career in the gaming industry, according to Stem Jobs.
UNDERSTANDING THE GAMING INDUSTRY
The gaming industry includes the development, marketing and monetization of video games, as well as the production, distribution and consumption of content generated by video games, according to “How You Can Make a Career in Gaming?” for Entrepreneur.
Entrepreneur explains that video games – PC gaming, mobile gaming and console gaming – are a form of entertainment that’s part of a $115.8 billion global industry. The industry can be divided into two verticals – game developers and gamers, according to Entrepreneur. Game developers are the companies that create the games, while gamers are the ones playing these games and drawing entertainment from interaction, participation and viewership.
“The career opportunities are pretty vast in the gaming industry,” according to Entrepreneur. “An essential trait in any gamer must be to find the right balance in a healthy lifestyle and their gaming habits. The gaming industry is booming rapidly with expansion into multiple domains and prospects for talented people have never been higher.”
WHICH SCHOOLS HAVE VARSITY ESPORTS TEAMS?
There are several college esports leagues including The National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE) and Tespa.
NACE was formed in 2016, with only seven colleges and universities having varsity esports programs then. Today, NACE has more than 175 colleges and universities that have varsity esports programs, with over 5,000 student athletes. This is important, since NACE schools officially recognize and support their college esports teams as official varsity-level athletic programs, according to “List of Colleges with Varsity Esports Programs” for Next College Student Athlete. This means that student athletes may be eligible to receive esports scholarships.
“Esports scholarships are awarded on a school-by-school basis,” according to the “Esports Scholarship Guide” for Next College Student Athlete. “The majority are partial and range from $500 to $8,000 per year. Several schools are beginning to offer full-tuition, and even full-ride scholarships.”
Tespa has over 270 North American chapters with more than 120,000 Tespa members and alumni. College clubs compete in Tespa leagues and give gamers the chance to win scholarships and prize money, according to Next College Student Athlete. Tespa has over 1,350 schools competing in its tournaments and has awarded $3.3 million to students through scholarships and prizes.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE BEST COLLEGES FOR GAMING
“The best colleges and universities for varsity esports have a tradition of excellence and support from the administration to grow and develop the program,” according to Next College Student Athlete. “Across the country, some of the best gaming colleges include Maryville, Robert Morris, Miami (Ohio), California-Irvine, Ashland, and Harrisburg University.”
Maryville University of St. Louis: “The university maintains a state-of-the-art practice facility with the best internet possible for low ping and high FPS (frames-per-second),” according to Lineups. “Along with high-speed computers, the facility also comes with top-of-the-line headsets and gaming chairs for maximum comfort and complete concentration. Maryville offers scholarships up to $2,000.”
Miami Unversity (Ohio): “Based in Oxford, Ohio, Miami University boasts greater name recognition and a higher academic ranking than most schools that offer varsity eSports programs,” according to “The Best College Varsity eSports Programs” for BestColleges. “Miami also provides students with a picturesque campus and plenty of collegiate nightlife.”
Miami University began offering esports scholarships in 2016, won the 2017 National Association of Collegiate eSports Overwatch season, and finished as runner-up at the 2017 NACE invitational in League of Legends, according to BestColleges. The university also created a minor in digital gaming and has an on-campus esports arena. Miami University’s teams compete in Tespa’s collegiate esports leagues, according to BestColleges.
Ashland University (Ohio): Ashland University has a varsity esports program and is one of the few in the nation to offer scholarships to Fortnite players, according to BestColleges. The program also recruits athletes for other games, and all esports athletes receive team gear including a jersey, backpack, mousepad, mouse, headset and jacket.
“Ashland’s eSports teams practice in the school’s on-campus facility, which contains 25 top-of-the-line gaming PCs and chairs in addition to widescreen television sets for coaching purposes,” according to BestColleges. “The team also brings in guest speakers – mainly professional players – to address athletes in a seminar series.”
Robert Morris University (Illinois): This university operates in the heart of Chicago and created the idea of varsity eSports programs,” according to Lineups.
Robert Morris University has dedicated coaches for the games the team competes in, as well as several sponsorships that provide the players with some of the best facilities in the nation, according to Lineups. The university offered the first esports scholarships to prospective members of the school’s League of Legends team back in 2014.
University of California-Irvine: UC Irvine became the first public university to create a varsity esports team, according to BestColleges.
“The program primarily focuses on Overwatch and League of Legends, awarding $5,610 scholarships to League players and $2,500 scholarships to Overwatch players,” according to BestColleges. “The campus loves eSports, as the school states that 72% of UC Irvine’s student body participates in some form of gaming. UC Irvine houses one of the nation’s most extensive eSports facilities, which currently includes more than 70 gaming computers.”
Harrisburg University: Harrisburg University became the first college esports program to award full ride scholarships to its entire 16-player roster in 2018, according to Next College Student Athlete. The university won ESPN’s inaugural Collegiate Esports Championship in May 2019.
“But schools like Harrisburg are playing an entirely different game: They’re willing to treat college e-sports like Alabama treats college football,” according to “Why Colleges Are Betting Big on Video Games” for The Atlantic. “The hope is that the scholarship money the institution invests will elevate the campus as a dominant force in a still-nascent community.”
The university opened in 2001, and has a total student population of about 750, according to The Atlantic.
WHER CAN I GET A GAMING DEGREE?
There are a number of colleges and universities where you can earn a gaming degree. In the United States, schools including Shenandoah University in Virginia, Becker College in Massachusetts and The Ohio State University have debuted esports degrees, according to a “Colleges are starting degrees in esports, with $36,000 programs” for CBS News.
Becker College offers a Bachelor of Science in esports management, and Ohio State is launching an esports and game studies undergraduate major that will include the application of games to health and medicine, according to the CBS News article. The University of Utah created an undergraduate gaming degree, and Miami University (Ohio) created a minor in digital gaming, according to BestColleges.
Full Sail University also offers a variety of game degrees including a Simulation & Visualization Bachelor’s Degree, a Game Art Bachelor’s Degree, a Game Design Bachelor’s Degree and a Game Development Bachelor’s Degree.
WHAT DO I STUDY?
If you’re wondering what you should study, “Roadmap to Becoming a Professional Video Gamer: From Degree to Career” for Learn.org notes that there are few options available for careers in professional video gaming, and adds that your first step should be education.
“While a formal education isn’t required for all video game-related jobs, you’ll likely still need a degree to open other career opportunities and advancement,” according to Learn.org. “A degree from an accredited college can be a springboard for a job as a programmer or designer. A number of different degree programs are available, but you may wish to consider a bachelor’s or master’s degree in game development or computer science. These programs teach you the essentials of designing and testing computer games and console games.”
Learn.org says that some of the subjects that you may study include animation, programming languages, storyboarding, interactive media and media ethics.
The five best degrees for gamers, according to Stem Jobs, are computer science, software engineering, video game development and programming, game art/interactive media design and computer animation.
If you’re serious about gaming, do your research to find the school and degree that will help you the most on your journey to becoming a professional gamer.