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What is Esports?

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A photo of Esports Arena Arlington
Grand opening of the Esports Stadium Arlington, the largest dedicated esports venue in the world. (Nov. 2018) We were able to attend thanks to press passes granted through our efforts within our Media & News Department.

What is Esports?

Esports represents a segment of the gaming industry fixated on professional levels of competitive video game play aimed at entertaining viewership, promoting rivalry, and elevating production. We’ve provided a quick snapshot of industries we all have heard of. I know many of you may go crosseyed with numbers, but we all know money is a great motivator and justifier for things to exist. We all also know that relating new concepts back to industries we all know and are comfortable with does give perspective. Enough about numbers! Let’s talk about what this all looks like.

The easiest way to introduce those who do not know anything about esports is to take the Super Bowl and replace the physical contact sport with two teams of gamers playing Madden on an Xbox, but leave 100% of everything else the same. That means leave the production standards, the marketing, the advertising, the performances, the analytics, the sportscasting, the camera crews, the ticketing office, the broadcast, and so much more.


  • Gaming: $138B (2018, CNBC)
  • Sports: $73.5B (2019 forecast, Forbes)
  • U.S. film industry: $43B (2018, Deadline)



  • Esports: $905M (2018, Forbes) 48% growth
  • NFL: $8B (2018, Reuters) 4.9% growth
  • NBA: $7.4B (2018, Forbes) 25% growth

Painting the Picture

Did that not help you? We’re linking the intro ceremony performance to one of the biggest world esports events next to this paragraph. Make sure to take notice that this is The Nest Olympic Stadium in Beijing, China. It is not small. This final showcase drew in 57.6M viewers(CBS8) versus the NFL’s Super Bowl at 103.4M and the NBA’s Finals at 17.56M in 2018. Take a moment to watch some parts of the LoL (League of Legends) opening ceremony and definitely take a look around the three-minute mark to see how esports can use technologies like augmented reality to bolster entertainment programming and streaming.

Now we know what most of you might be thinking? So in a nutshell, this is about students playing games on a higher level but ultimately just about playing games. You’re not wrong, but the entertainment we get from variety shows, sports entertainment, and gaming all are revenue generators regardless of the subject matter intricacies. We’ll dissect this one step further in the next section.


2017 Riot Games’ League of Legends World Championship Finals at The Nest Olympic Stadium in Beijing, China. If you make it to 3:00 you’ll see how esports and gaming are pushing augmented reality for entertainment as well.

What Does Higher Education Have to do with Esports?

Evans Hall at The University of Oklahoma

If you took a moment and watched the opening performance from The Nest in China I want you to pause a second right here and think about the logistics it took to make that happen. Production teams, stage development, live streaming broadcast teams, and legal. This still isn’t a full picture of the opportunities a higher education institution can assist with solidifying the industry infrastructure. Our goal at the University of Oklahoma is to advocate and partner with our academic components on campus to find ways to help each other in our individual and global missions alike.

The University of Oklahoma has degree plans in Journalism, Business, Entrepreneurship (Business), Law, Social Work, and more that can correlate with our objectives. While we do not have well-developed relationships quite yet we have tons of students from those disciplines that are helping us solidify our programming and infrastructure in the club and paving the way. The collegiate campus continues to be one of the best places in the entire industry to develop esports infrastructure. We have the age demographics all in one place, meeting spaces, are already teaching and training future professionals, and have an abundance of technology that can be used for this purpose.

A Cultural Titan & Diversity Equalizer

Have you played League of Legends, Call of Duty, Madden, Candy Crush, Animal Crossing, or Angry Birds? Guess what!? You've played a video game! In a 2019 report by Esports Scholastic Assocation, they discovered that 65% of the entire 18-29 year old age demographics in the U.S. played a video game of some sort. Additionally, the gender breakdown of that survey was 55/45 split men vs women. Gaming and esports topics present a great equalizer in many different respects. Even if we move past the academic strategies or business opportunities, the prospects for student engagment, fellowship, and retention are easy motivators for further institutional support and adding value to the student experience and the communities OU fosters.

OU Students showing pride in OUr culture.