Esports opportunities grow for isle youth

Local News

Esports, or professional video-gaming — is making some great gamers a great deal of money around the world.

The industry is expected to generate more than $1 billion in revenue this year — and the University of Hawaii has become the second in the islands to make sure local students have their chance at earning a piece of it.

Esports is exploding to the point that financial analysts are keenly watching it. Professional sports team owners have invested in it. Much of the electronic sports’ revenue comes through sponsorship and advertising as well as licensing of broadcast and streaming rights.

Kids barely 20 are making millions of dollars.

Nyle Sky Kauweloa  is a Ph.D student at Manoa but also is its first esports instructor, teaching a class called Esports and Society. 

Prevailing wisdom has been that videogames and esports are a frivolous waste of time, but Kauweloa says research proves that to be false.

“Students when they play competitive games or when they play video games in general, are deeply engaged in critical thinking, collaborative team communications and strategy-making.”

Some of them also make bank. Kauweloa says some of the highest-paid stars of YouTube, are gamers.

His class covers esports’ exploding popularity and opportunities within the industry. He testified before state lawmakers Monday to generate support for expanding esports at UH. 

UH Manoa will field its first esports team — which plays “Overwwatch” — in a five-week tournament. The school has long had a club, the Manoa Academy of Gamers, on campus.

Across town, Hawaii Pacific University was first to the esports party, starting up in September of 2016.

Only a very small percentage of esports players make it to the professional level, but HPU Esports Arena Manager Reed Pasatiempo says the academics involved can lead to game design and other types of multi-media careers. 

“There’s also opportunities like using our virtual reality system, so virtual reality and augmented reality, are pretty much what’s pushing industries forward.”

There are also specialized opportunities in broadcasting — only they don’t call it that.

“There are international programs that actually give degrees for what they call shout-casting. shout-casting is the commentators of esports.”

Ttraditionally, videogaming was a treat, that kids got to do after their homework was done. For some students, gaming is their homework.

At HPU, serious gamers can even obtain scholarships of $1,000 to $6,000.

Dominique Bushong, HPU Campus Recreation Director, says HPU’s “League of Legends” team is now two years old and competes with about 500 college teams in the Western region and beyond.

They’ve just assembled an “Overwatch” team they hope will be competitive beginning next semester.

Several member-schools in the Hawaii High School Athletic Association are active in esports.

Bushong says, “HPU is really excited about that, because we were trying to tap into different high schools and host a scholarship tournament here for high schools, which we did, and we offered a $15,000 scholarship to a high school that won the competition here.”

She adds, “Parents should be proud of their kids playing games now, so, it’s not like run outside and play it’s, you can stay at home and become successful and win money and play videogames.” 

Globally, gaming industry analytics firm Newzoo projects that the esports audience will grow by 15 percent to 453.8 million people, comprising more than 201 million esports enthusiasts and more than 252 million on-and-off viewers. 

Newzoo says North America’s nearly 24 million esports players will generate review of more than $17 per fan this year, a greater amount than any other region of the world.

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