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Explore the business of esports at Pacific

Pacific’s esports class hosts a gaming tournament at the Eberhardt School of Business.

Do you ever wish you could skip class to play video games instead? In a new, interactive course at Pacific’s Eberhardt School of Business, you can do both at the same time. 

In BUSI 93A: The Business of Esports, students fully immerse themselves in the rapidly growing esports industry by learning about the business models of competitive gaming, organizing their own tournaments and, of course, playing games! 

“More than 3 billion people each day play some type of game either on their smartphone, on a console or on a desktop or laptop,” said Lewis R. Gale, interim dean and professor of business at Eberhardt. “We use esports as a way to help students learn about basic business foundations.”  

The rise of esports  

Esports competitions have been going on since the 1990s, but recently, their popularity has increased dramatically—largely in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

During the lockdown, many people turned to livestreaming platforms for entertainment they could enjoy alone at home. According to Influencer Marketing Hub, there was an estimated audience of 435.9 million esports viewers in 2020, which was a 9.6% increase from 2019.  

But even with the return of in-person events, the esports industry isn’t showing signs of slowing down. In November of 2022, the League of Legends tournament sold out San Francisco’s Chase Center with 19,000 fans in attendance.  

By 2024, Influencer Marketing Hub projects the esports audience will rise to 577.8 million people. This rapid growth has resulted in esports programs exploding in popularity in college curriculums. Like other progressive universities, Pacific has stayed on top of the trend.  

“Through esports, students learn about skills that are very valuable to businesses,” said Gale. “If you ask what are the top skills that a business is looking for, they don’t list majors, they just list the skills. And a lot of them are skills that students learn by doing, so leadership, teamwork, communication skills, problem-solving skills.” 

BUSI 93A: The Business of Esports

Gale and his colleagues started designing the esports course in 2022 as a two-week program for Pacific’s Summer High School Institute. To fully immerse the students in the gaming world, they converted an Eberhardt computer lab into an esports classroom, including orange and black gaming chairs, blackout curtains, a giant bean bag couch and even vintage arcade games to transform the space.  

Students collaborate to plan a gaming tournament in the new esports classroom.

After the Summer High School Institute, the room remained open to Pacific students when they came back to school in the fall. It was so popular with the students that they decided to organize an esports competition in November and asked Gale to offer a full esports class as part of the business school’s curriculum.  

Gale soon wrote a proposal for an experimental esports class. The course officially launched last spring. 

“This aligned very well with us because we have several alumni that are working in the esports arena,” said Gale. “We have several alumni working at Riot Games, which is a video gaming company that has one of the most popular tournament games.” 

Gale based the curriculum on an esports management textbook, which covers various elements connecting esports to business, from finance to budgeting, marketing and communications.  

“I have played many esports titles, participated in tournaments, and have been to a few events. However, I had never approached gaming from an academic level,” said Nikko Toralba ’22. “Taking the esports class at Pacific offered insights into the esports industry and the cultural impact it has had on society and offered first-hand experience with planning and hosting events.” 

Experiential learning through gaming tournaments 

As part of the esports class, the students also organized three gaming tournaments: Valorant, Smash Bros Ultimate and Counter Strike GO.  

Through the process, they learned how to build teams of people that they didn’t know, how to communicate and develop gameplay strategy and conduct research on esports audience growth. They even designed their own esports jerseys and coordinated live streaming on social media. 

Esports student designs a jersey for a gaming tournament.

“I have to tell you, in all the classes that I’ve taught at Pacific, I probably had more fun in that class than any other class because I let the students run it,” said Gale.  

As part of the tournament planning process, the students had to plan for a variety of scenarios and create a code of conduct to ensure fair gameplay. They broke into groups and started brainstorming guidelines for behavior and sportsmanship.  

“This is what you do in business, too,” said Gale. “In any organization, there are codes of conduct and statements of ethics so that when somebody steps out of line, they help get them back on the right track.” 

Overall, Gale was impressed with the students’ achievements throughout the semester.  

“For a first start, I thought it was a terrific outcome,” said Gale. “A lot of the students came with a good deal of knowledge already, which was very helpful. They were learning, and then they were turning around and teaching other students.” 

How to get involved in esports at Pacific 

During this year’s Week of Welcome, students who took the inaugural esports class will host a tournament for new students. They will also host another tournament later in the semester. 

If you’re interested in taking the esports class, it will be offered in coming semesters as an open elective course for any major. The gaming room will also be open to any Pacific student, so stop by and check it out next time you’re at Weber Hall.  

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