A Career in Video Games? High School Students Learn about jobs in the Field at ESU Esports Event

Behind the Scenes Esports

Posted by: Elizabeth Richardson on April 7, 2022, No Comments

Making a living doing something you love – it’s the definition of career fulfillment. On April 1, high school students and teachers converged on East Stroudsburg University for an esports event designed to show the teens how their passion for video games could lead to careers in the industry in everything from computer programming, engineering and graphic design to communications, marketing and advertising.

The event drew more than 50 students plus teachers and administrators from the school districts of Allentown, Parkland, Nazareth, East Penn and Jim Thorpe. They ate lunch at Dansbury Commons before taking tours of the ESU campus, including the new Esports Room at in the Mattioli Recreation Center and the 4K McGarry TV Studio. They heard about the demand for skilled workers from video game industry professionals with Unreal Engine and Cleverlike Studios, which develops content and experiences for top games, including Minecraft and Fortnite.

By day’s end, Andres Vargas, a 10th grader at Allen High School, was fired up by the possibilities in the field and impressed with the TV studio and esports facilities at ESU.

“Everything I saw was so eye-opening,” Vargas said. “It’s like you could see the future. I could see myself coming here and enjoying everything.”

“I want to be a graphic designer,” he said. “The amount of things you can create with graphics is amazing.”

Brian Dickman and Ian Southwell from Cleverlike Studios did a presentation by Zoom in which they showed off the power of Unreal Engine for creating virtual worlds for films and videos as well as immersive, interactive 3D experiences in areas such as fashion and architecture. They talked about the high demand for skilled workers in the field.

Dickman asked the students: “Who here has played Minecraft before?” Nearly every hand in the room went up.

“I can produce video games for a living now,” he told the audience.

“I grew up with a Gameboy,” Southwell said. “I decided instead of just playing games, I was going to make games.”

The conference organizers understand that the students may have parents and grandparents who are skeptical of the value of video gaming. Richard Otto, Ph.D., associate professor of digital media technologies and the chair of the department, puts the booming industry in context.

“Imagine getting in on the ground floor of the NFL or the NBA,” Dr. Otto said. “That’s what’s happening…there’s a whole business ecosystem being created around the world focused on gaming.”

Go to Hitmarker.net, a website for jobs in esports, and more than 10,000 listings will come up.

“The reality is there are so many different aspects of the esports industry that are available for careers because it’s so interdisciplinary by nature,” said Jason Engerman, Ph.D., assistant professor of digital media technologies. Esports requires workers with skills in information technology, writing, graphics, communications, digital media, management, coaching and playing, to name just a few.

The April 1 event was part of a National Science Foundation program that focuses on using digital media technologies to help diverse groups of students continue their education at ESU and beyond in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).

ESU’s Department of Digital Media Technologies has added a graduate certification that explores professional aspects of esports, as well as two undergraduate courses: Digital Sports Entertainment Production and Esports Business Strategy.

In 2019, students and faculty launched the Creative Media Factory, which offers opportunities for students interested in an esports career to develop the tools based in STEM subjects they will need, while exposing them to industry professionals and connecting them to companies. ESU students are on the junior research team of the NSF grant and helped design and develop the April 1 event.

“They can use the skills that they’re learning in the classroom to build out opportunities for themselves,” Engerman said.

Otto agreed.

“We’re not interested in teaching students how to play games, because they would just crush us,” he said, chuckling. “What we are interested in is helping them understand the business aspects behind it and the careers connected to it. If we can help students find that connection that is a powerful bridge to their future.”

During the esports event, ESU showed off its new Esports Room created and run by the Student Activity Association.  Opened in fall 2021, the center offers 10 high-end Alienware PCs, as well as flat-screen TVs and games and gaming consoles.

Yovian Torres, a junior from Allen High, said he plans to join the military after graduating and then hopes to go to college to learn how to design video games, which he sees as just a different form of storytelling.

“Making a game is like writing a book,” Torres said. “People playing the game are like characters in the book.”

Rebecca Singer, who teaches computer programming at Dieruff High, said interest in the ESU event was high. More than 50 students signed up to go but Dieruff had to cap the number at 19 because they were sharing a bus with Allen High students. For some of the teens, it was their first time being on a college campus and some talked about wanting to attend ESU when they graduate.

“It also expanded their knowledge of the many different subfields and careers within esports,” Singer said. “On the bus back to Dieruff the students talked about how they would like to work with Unreal Engine and how they can’t believe their ‘hobbies’ can get them scholarships for school.”