Want to Play Video Games in College Classes? Major in Esports

Colleges in China are offering esports degree programs to hone the next generation of professional gaming specialists

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12:02 PM HKT, Fri August 12, 2022 3 mins read

Level Up! is a regular series exploring Chinese youth’s passion for video games and digital entertainment.

As dreamy as it might sound to take college courses at a cybercafé and be assigned video games for homework, Qunkai Wang admits, “It might not be as easy as you think.” The college graduate who majored in Esports Analysis lays bare the truth with RADII.

After a four-year course at the Communication University of China, Nanjing, the country’s first school to set up an esports-dedicated division, Wang is now a certified esports commentator for multiplayer online battle arena video game League of Legends.

“Studying esports is about far more than playing games. It is a systematic study in every facet,” explains Wang.

Misunderstandings about what the major entails explains why many parents in China are still hesitant about backing esports studies. Some fear that their children might experience video game addiction — a globally recognized illness by the World Health Organization as of this year.

But according to Wang, video games and esports aren’t the same thing.

“Amateur gamers game out of affection. They don't need to go through a standardized training process whereas professional players are usually dead serious about every game and strive to give it their all.”

The 23-year-old’s current timetable only starts in the afternoon, but runs later than the average salaryman’s: From 13:00 to 17:00 and from 19:00 to 22:30, with an early dinner break in between.

When Wang isn’t refining his gaming skills, he is meticulously studying recorded performances by Honor of Kings’ top gamers.

He believes that attending gaming courses have enhanced his appreciation of game aesthetics, equipped him with the skills to maneuver their mechanisms, and heightened his assessment of each gamer’s persona.

“Such training lays a solid foundation for your core competitiveness in the esports job market,” he underscores.

Static Sportsmanship

Jiaming Zhang, an esports instructor, believes that esports players aren’t too different from the traditional realm of sports athletes. After all, being a professional esports gamer requires good sportsmanship, a strong desire for honorable achievements, and maximum effort, he says.

Since 2003, China’s top sports administration body has listed esports as an official sports program. Esports will even be included as a recognized medal program at the 2022 Hangzhou Asian Games, per the Olympic Council of Asia’s official announcement last September.

“Our courses aim to cultivate well-rounded esports players who are trained in game analysis, game design, Java, Python, etc.,” explains Zhang. “When esports is industrialized, these students are required to analyze these games from a deeper level instead of taking it as a form of entertainment.”

China’s Ministry of Education approved listing esports management as a college major in 2016, reported state media CGTN. And since 2017, approximately 30 colleges in China have started to offer programs related to esports; many of these schools specialize in media or kinesiology.

Esports Commentary

The first batch of graduates with degrees in esports pursued one of the following professions: Esports journalist, professional player, or ‘shoutcaster.’ The last of these appealed to Wang.

The neologism suggests that the individual is expected to ‘shout’ or maintain upbeat commentary during livestreamed matches. Similar to sportscasters or journalists in the traditional sense, pre-game research makes for engaging and successful commentary.

“We have to widen our ‘database’ of games and matches. For example, we watch the LPL (League of Legends professional league in China) every single day. At the same time, we keep ourselves informed of updates on game versions,” elucidates Wang.

Esports education China

Qunkai Wang (left) running commentary during a Demacia championship. Image courtesy of Wang

After two years in the job, Wang can safely say that he has become acclimatized to the job’s demands. But the high standards he has set for himself are cause for discontent.

Internal assessments are run twice annually within his company, and his performance has been deemed unsatisfactory. Wang attributes this to his oral capabilities, and recognizes that he requires many more hours to reach true proficiency.

Since esports events are high-spirited and cut-throat, commentary can be taxing, both physically and emotionally — this is something Wang wants the general audience to understand and to appreciate.

A Shortage of Talent

Ever since China began scaling up its esports industry, the country has risen to international prominence. In November of 2021, Shanghai-based Edward Gaming triumphed over Korea’s Damwon Kia to secure the 2021 League of Legends World Championship — an impressive win in the eyes of the nation and the world.

A report by marketing consulting company iResearch contains eye-opening tidbits about China’s esports industry: Not only did the market make almost 150 billion RMB (23.5 billion USD) in 2020, but experts also estimate that that amount will reach 215.7 billion RMB (33.9 billion USD) in 2022. According to said report, 2020 saw some 500 million esports consumers.

Despite booming development, the industry still faces a dire dilemma: a shortage of talent.

“There is a huge gap between job market demand and supply of school-trained talents,” says Zhang. “Even school-trained students don’t have enough practical experience yet.”

According to data released by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security in June 2019, there will be nearly two million job vacancies in esports if the cultivation system isn’t improved in the following 5 years.

“As long as the industry is gradually standardized and the related rules become more detailed, we believe that the industry and its professions will be better received by the masses,” says Wang.

Additional reportage contributed by Haoyu Wang and Wenhui Hu

Cover image designed by Haedi Yue

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