Staffordshire University have become the first university in the country, and one of the first in the world, to officially roll out an eSport degree this year. The university based in Stoke is among the top three universities for games; design and development.
The course will focus on the business side of the industry teaching students how to host small and large scale events, create business plans to develop teams, and advertise events through digital marketing. This niche degree aims to fully equip students for careers in the eSport industry.
The obvious question is how useful this degree for the 'real world'. The course is so niche and narrow that it may limit how many career opportunities graduates could have.
Degrees in business, or even events management, would provide students with the same skills that this degree offers along with more transferable skills. Organising events, creating business plans and marketing are the three key foundations of Staffordshire's eSports degree - the same core foundations of any business degree without the limitations of specificity.
Several experts, such as the Chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, Chris McGovern, expressed their concerns for the real world application of gaming degrees. He is quoted as defining courses like computer game studies (and by extension the eSports degree now available at Staffordshire University) as "really attractive to young people" leaving them with "£50 000 worth of debt and unemployable".
Despite this, there are many factors that legitimise the university's choice to offer this degree. The size of the eSport industry alone is worth $905m according to Neezoo global eSport market report.
With an industry this large and predicted to reach an estimation of $1.5bn by 2020, it makes commercial sense to capitalise on this rapidly expanding market.
Similar degrees are offered for other large sporting industries: such as a football studies degree at Solent University Southampton. Degrees along this vein are seen in university prospectuses across the country.
What may come as a surprise is that like any other degree there are viable recruitment agencies within the industry, such as Riot Games and Blizzard.
A more feasible alternative is doing a more generalised degree with a module specialising in eSports. The University of York offer an eSport content production module as part of their third year Film and Television degree. This offers the same fundamentals (with perhaps a more media-oriented lens) as the Staffordshire eSports degree.
But as this is a specialised module it does not constrict graduates to a niche and competitive job market. In our own opinion we believe that an eSport degree is unnecessarily specific and objectively limiting when compared to degrees that offer the same skills, and may come to hinder graduates' employability.