GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — UNCG is taking gaming to the next level with the help of a state budget allocation.
The state awarded UNCG’s esports program $16.9 million to be paid out over two years to create a statewide league for middle and high school students among other efforts.
It’s certainly non-traditional, but it’s the wave of the future. Esports is expected to generate more than $70 billion a year by 2027 with more people watching them and more people playing.
Students Sophia Rosenburg, Myles McMillan and Jackson Craig are indeed excellent gamers. They all have different backgrounds, but what they all have in common is gaming.
“These kids are being born into this era. They grew up having iPads. They grow up having iPhones, so this is an opportunity for these kids to know, ‘Hey, how can I take this extremely valuable and extremely powerful piece of technology and help me in the future of my career?’” McMillan said.
The $16.9 million budget allocation from the state of North Carolina is aimed at doing just that: educating students who are looking at joining a multibillon dollar industry.
“I really want to be a user researcher, and user researching in the video game industry is getting huge,” Rosenburg said.
The program itself is still in its infancy, and the state funding will level it up.
“We are using the funding in three large areas. The academics, which is funding the curriculum and the research opportunities, we’re using … for outreach and community and industry engagement. The third thing is the student experience, developing our varsity esports team and making them a competitive presence nationwide,” said Dr. John Borchert at UNCG.
UNCG will also be the hub for the UNCG Scholastic Esports Alliance, which is a statewide esports league for middle and high schoolers to give younger kids a head start.
“It’s benefitting our high schoolers so much. They are not only participating in esports tournaments on a regular basis like they would in any other traditional sports, they are also engaging in STEM challenges on a regular basis, interacting with AI, coding and competing with that as well,” said Sophie Priest, assistant director of esports innovation.
Students find they’re often surprised by what they learn.
“I learned the English language through playing Pokémon at the age of six,” Craig said.
And they can channel their passions no matter what their major is.
“We are creating a program where music students can make video game soundtracks,” Rosenburg said.
It’s all in service of putting their program on the cutting edge.
“We really want to be transformational in the way games are being taught and the way we are teaching using games to the middle and high school level and to be stronger when they get here and even better when they leave,” Borchert said.
As you might expect, the equipment, internet connection and all of the pieces of what it takes to have an esports arena isn’t cheap.
Their goal is to make it a sustainable program to be on the brink of new technology for years to come.