Ask the Expert: Esports

esports

The expert advice to answer your most pressing questions. This month, Dylan Wray, the recreation program specialist and esports coordinator at the University of North Texas (UNT), shares advice on esports.

As the esports coordinator, what does your role consist of? 

DW: As the esports coordinator, my job is to build a successful operation that functions as a full bodied “athletics like” department that caters to esports. I essentially facilitate, encourage, educate and promote students who take esports seriously. Esports comes from a wide variety of skill set backgrounds and has an entire economy built around it. On campus, it’s my job to identify areas and departments to connect to the program that not only improves the department, but offers new and exciting opportunities for students that reflect how esports functions and operates in the real world. While I do a lot of email work, most of my communication is through Discord — think Reddit and Skype in one platform — with my players, student coaches, student managers, peer directors or tournament organizers. Day to day, I help manage teams, organize scrimmages against peer universities, set up broadcasts for games and individual play, and develop new opportunities for students to apply their academic background to esports.

What does esports at the University of North Texas look like? 

DW: At UNT we’re building a working competitive and educational program. Currently the four games we support on a varsity level are Overwatch, League of Legends, Heroes of the Storm and Hearthstone. Our varsity players practice and compete in our NEST facility, which is maintained by the library department on campus. There, our students meet about three times a week to prepare for their weekend games; they also compete from the NEST itself. Esports is neat in the sense we can play countless universities and teams on a weekly basis, all from the comfort of one facility. Travel is typically only needed for special events, or if a team does really well and gets flown out to a tournament championship at another school.

What are three lessons you’ve learned over the years when it comes to creating a successful esports program? 

DW: One: A successful program has people that are good at managing people. Two: Solo casting on twitch is easy; putting on a broadcast for an actual game with casters and observers is complicated. You need to know what can be easy wins for your program, and what challenges you need to work up to with your resources. Three: Esports management is just Discord and spreadsheets. Organization and communication are your two greatest allies.

What has been the biggest challenge in building a successful esports program? 

DW: While someday I hope this won’t be the case, you will need to know how to explain and defend your program. Most people’s disapproval, indifference or prescribed stereotype of what they think an esports program is, comes from a lack of education.

What is one way or area you think the industry could improve upon when it comes to esports programs? 

DW: Focus on the entertainers and the fans who are entertained. Everything else will follow.  

Heather Hartmann
Heather Hartmann is the editor for Campus Rec Magazine. She can be reached at heather@peakemedia.com.

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