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Should eSports Be Pursued in Academia?
Chinese colleges began to make eSports a major in college
 NO. 43 OCTOBER 27, 2016

 

(LI SHIGONG) 

Recent years have seen the burgeoning growth of electronic sports (eSports) in China. The industry now has a multibillion dollar market, boasting some 100 million players. There are also various eSports competitions at both national and local levels.

It therefore comes as no surprise that an announcement on the website of the Department of Vocational and Adult Education under the Ministry of Education declared on September 2 that eSports gaming and management will be one of the 13 new academic majors available in 2017 for vocational study. On September 28, the Hunan Sports Vocational College officially made eSports gaming and management a major in their college and will soon begin recruiting students.

The inclusion of eSports in college education is seen by many as a milestone in the history of China's eSports industry. Students enrolled in the Hunan Sports Vocational College's course will study data analysis, eSports competition judging, organization and management.

The official recognition of eSports by the Ministry of Education has been applauded by some as a necessary and timely step to guide this industry toward more proper and sustainable development. Proponents say that it is beneficial for both students interested in eSports and the country's economic growth. However, there are some parents—in particular—who are worried that this move will just spur children to spend more time playing online games.

A good start

Zhang Yuanmei (opinion.people.com.cn): News of the new vocational college major has worried many parents, who are afraid that this will become an excuse for their children to get sucked into Internet games. I think the situation will go in the opposite direction, though. Once eSports is made into a college major, young people fond of online games will have access to proper and systematic education for their hobbies, while being properly steered out of game addiction and into the path of innovation and management.

The eSports industry has experienced rapid growth driven by market forces. Relevant competitions and huge awards as well as generous incomes for game presenters—all these point to the industry's growing potential. The rise of eSports has already become an irreversible trend. Against this backdrop, youngsters who have opportunities to pick up relevant theories and techniques in college may well make eSports a successful career.

Suppose we all turn a blind eye to this burgeoning industry, with no rules to guide it, would that be good for the interests of those involved? When youngsters are enrolled as eSports students, they can learn how to restrict their desire for online games, as well as how to properly deal with the violence displayed in the games. Actually, there are a lot of things that they can learn through the courses provided by vocational colleges, while at the same time developing good personalities that can help with their future careers, either in the eSports arena or in other areas.

Cheng Zhenwei (www.voc.com.cn): Some media outlets have described this decision as: "Internet gaming becomes a college course." Such titles are actually demeaning to the eSports industry. It is not simply about playing online games. ESports involves a mental element that is presented through the use of hi-tech software and computers. It can create a fantastic world of competition, where teamwork and innovation are needed. Society should rid itself of its bias toward eSports. This is a normal business which can contribute a lot to economic growth.

Chinese society is still resisting eSports as a whole. Some parents even send their eSports prodigies to Internet addiction camps, where they are sometimes considered as psychotic and are treated with electroconvulsive therapy. We have entered the era of eSports, but there is no effective mechanism to tell time-consuming, unproductive online gaming from eSports. By becoming included in college education, eSports is actually distancing itself from online gaming as a pastime. The government's decision has come at the right moment. From an academic perspective, steering eSports to the right direction through college education is an effort to develop the public's perception and enrich their cultural lives. We can no longer mix up eSports with plain online gaming.

Nowadays, eSports is still seen as simply playing Internet games. We have so many game players, but China is still not leading in eSports. Introducing eSports as part of vocational and technical college education is just a start. To strengthen eSports, we need to provide good education and advanced academic research. Colleges offering eSports programs should not only focus on the training of professional players and coaches, but also conduct research on this emerging industry.

Lu Daoming (Dalian Daily): In 2003, eSports were formally approved by the General Administration of Sport as a sporting event. Recent years have seen it attract huge amounts of capital. The eSports industry is now short on human resources. The aim of vocational colleges that set up this program should not be limited to eSports referees and managers—presenting can also be a potential training goal.

Caution needed

Wang Dan (Beijing Times): Some people have read the government's announcement as an official acknowledgment of online gaming. That is a shallow understanding.

The shortage of professional eSports management personnel and loopholes in its management systems are becoming problematic. To a large extent, opening up eSports to academics is a necessity.

The problem now is not whether eSports should be recognized as an academic major, but how to make such courses more professional. Although eSports is a big market, the available games under that banner are limited, and thus the demand for relevant staff may not be as large as previously perceived. Therefore, vocational colleges that have opened this course must design their classes and practices based on reality, while other colleges should refrain from rushing to open their own eSports courses. Pilot programs should be used to test their viability.

Meanwhile, certain thresholds must be reached before students can enroll in these new classes. They must be equipped with the ability to think independently, react quickly, and work as a team. Colleges must have a strict screening mechanism so that they can find the most suitable students for these new courses. We hope colleges will be cautious and careful when dealing with this matter in the future.

Yang Xi (Beijing Business Today): There has been a boom in the popularity of eSports in recent years, so such measures can help schools keep up with the times. However, is this emerging industry strong enough to prop up an academic discipline in college?

More and more eSports personalities are attracting attention as well as money to the scene. In 2015, the domestic eSports industry generated 27 billion yuan ($4 billion) in revenue, according to the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television. However, for any booming industry, this number is trivial.

The eSports industry in China is at a nascent stage and plagued by messy management and polarized incomes for those involved. Is it necessary to introduce this academic major in such a hurry? Are there well-developed training mechanisms and qualified teachers for these students? If not, this program may end up as a newly invented way to trick students out of their money.

Copyedited by Bryan Michael Galvan

Comments to yanwei@bjreview.com

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