When it comes to esports on college campuses, it’s often competition, whether intramural or intercollegiate, that gets most of the attention. But just as vibrant traditional sports programs create value well beyond the field of play, well-designed esports programs are capable of enhancing many of the university’s functions, including research and career preparation.
PowerPlay’s recent partnership with Skoltech – the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology located just outside Moscow, Russia – is a testament to the many applications of esports on campuses. At Skoltech, University leaders were interested in developing something that would appeal to talented millennial students, but also offer something to the rest of the campus community. This led to the development of the Skoltech Esports Academy, the first of its kind in Russia.
In addition to providing a training ground for the next generation of elite players, the Skoltech Esports Academy will help researchers conduct experiments using game-related technologies like artificial intelligence and cloud computing. In time, this research will lead to the development of new kinds of software capable of advanced decision-making skills in complex situations. The presence of high-performing gamers also offers Skoltech a built-in population of skilled users to test new hardware technologies, like virtual and augmented reality interfaces.
“Practical applications [of esports] have the potential to generate ideas that will lead to the creation of startups by Skoltech students and researchers – startups that could drive competition in the Russian and global markets, and to cement Russia’s status as a global leader in technology and education,” explained Ivan Khlebnikov, director of the Skoltech Endowment Foundation.
What’s more, as esports continues to grow across the globe, centers like the Skoltech Esports Academy prepare student leaders for a burgeoning sector of the digital economy. By exposing students to the business of esports and the technical infrastructure that makes global competitive gaming leagues possible, students will be better prepared to take advantage of the professional opportunities esports is already creating.
Asi Burak, CEO of PowerPlay, stated in an interview that “Becoming a Russian professional gamer is about discipline, exceptional abilities, leadership, media understanding, nutrition, and being a role model to fans. And Skoltech can help train and shape that next generation of Russian ‘winners.’”