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University of Waikato says it's 'game on' for esports

By Sara Barker, Fri 17 Dec 2021

In what might just be a New Zealand first, budding esports stars can now study this booming industry as part of their university degrees.

The University of Waikato has put together a new esports minor qualification that students can take as part of their degrees. The qualification offers foundation papers and several papers across three main areas: athletes and coaching; industry, events and management; and design, media and production.

It’s clear that the university, which also plays home to the OMEN esports arena, wants to play its part in training the next generation of gamers and planners in an industry that is worth US$1 billion - and growing.

According to University of Waikato esports coordinator Tom Featonby, it’s an exciting time for the industry.

“We also know it is where most of our secondary students are, so it’s helping to bring a connection between something they are passionate about and higher learning.”

The university also sought the help of a sociologist and psychologist to develop the qualification - Te Huataki Waiora School of Health professor Holly Thorpe and associate professor Gareth Schott.

Thorpe says gaming has soared during the pandemic. The stereotype of teenagers locked in dark bedrooms is now completely outdated and it’s time to develop the talent that esports needs.

“The research tells us three out of every four New Zealanders are now involved in video gaming and esports is a version of that. We already have huge national esports events being run by the University for secondary students. Offering the minor is the next evolution of that,” notes Thorpe.

“A student might be taking a Bachelor of Teaching so it might help them think about how they can implement esports into the classroom through the gamification of learning or how they can use digital games to get kids excited about physical education again. The possibilities to take learnings and innovation from the esports industry to other sectors are endless.

While the university is keen to develop the subject into a fully-fledged major, that won’t happen just yet.

Learning from a place of passion and exploring interdisciplinary innovations in esports, our students can go on to be real leaders and change-makers in their chosen careers,” concludes Thorpe.
 

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