A lesson with the esports teacher
Competitive gaming, also known as esports, is a big part of why the UK games industry has outperformed so many other sectors in recent years. Games like League of Legends, Overwatch, Street Fighter and FIFA each have professional players and millions of fans who fill stadiums and live streaming events to watch the action. Recognising the potential, award-winning further education provider James Fraser-Murison worked with industry colleagues to develop the UK’s first esports BTEC. Here, he talks through his journey to becoming an esports teacher.
In April 2019, myself, a teaching colleague, and the head of creative arts at Queen Mary’s College (QMC) visited Chichester University to discuss how they planned on launching their esports degree.
Chichester University and Staffordshire University (London campus) were two of the first universities in the UK to see the obvious synergy between esports and education, and also the pathway to the future of digitally enabled jobs.
With COVID-19 a huge factor in their decision making, these new esports degrees now seem even more sensible than before.
To see first-hand what was available to students leaving sixth form and going into university was a real eye-opener for us and gave us food for thought about how we could launch a similar course for post-16 students at QMC.
We returned from Chichester energised at what we had seen and somewhat pleased that esports was part of the future for education.
Buoyed by the excitement and potential of what we could achieve at QMC to support an industry worth north of $1.1 billion dollars, we needed to frame it for relevance within a college setting and to engage our students, many of whom game competitively already.
We also needed a way to get them to communicate with each other and not within their own individual silos.
You must have a vision, right? Otherwise, it is just ‘stuff’ and ‘things’ clashing together more in hope and coincidence than anything else. Well, my vision was simple. To be the leading provider of esports education in the south of England. Go big or go home, as they say.
With recent articles indicating the current success and exponential growth of gaming compared to more traditional, cultural, and well-known revenue streams, it was imperative that this was addressed within education.
In the year or so since we started on this esports BTEC journey, YouTube, musician Travis Scott and Fortnite merged to host an online concert that has now had over 129 million views just on the main account itself (many millions more if you include the running totals).
Esports team 100 Thieves has just partnered with Gucci, Call of Duty has over a 100 million players globally, League of Legends, soon to have its own Netflix series, peaked in 2020 with 46 million concurrent viewers tuning into the World Championships and Guild have launched the first-ever esports academy, which myself and my students were vital in helping set up as a world first.
If these newsworthy and cultural events are happening, it is important they are discussed with our students and linked to the bigger picture of esports as a business and career opportunity.
After all, my role as an educator is to prepare students for the contemporary world out there with relevant portfolios and future-facing, digital skills that make them hireable and desirable to employers.
Fast-forward to September 2021 and what can I say?
We've now worked alongside Guild, Belong Arenas, YoYotech and EM3 to build the largest sixth form esports arena, streaming room and yoga room in the UK.
I'm pleased to have written units for the UK’s first esports BTEC, a chapter for an esports book as well as become a national trainer for Pearson, a speaker at various events including the Festival of Education and a mentor for NASEF.
Working with the college, I also opened an esports arena with 52 gaming machines, all during a pandemic.
Why? Because the need is out there and it's important to lead from the front and ride the crest of the esports wave while you can.
- James Fraser-Murison is a further education provider and esports consultant based in the South of England. You can find him on Twitter at @FraserEsports
- The UK esports sector has grown at an average annual rate of 8.5% between 2016 and 2019, generating £111.5m in GVA in 2019.
- For more information on the progress being made with esports and education, please follow the link below for the Esports Research and its Integration in Education: https://www.igi-global.com/book/esports-research-its-integration-education/260148
The META Games Industry Index is a campaign powered by UMi, with the support of Ukie. The index highlights and celebrates the creativity, innovation, job creating and positive social impact of the games industry across the UK. For more information, please visit https://www.metagamesindex.co.uk/.