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Competitive Advantage: Emerson Organizes eSports Tournament Championship

Brandon Pata '19 competes in the finals of an Emerson-hosted eSports tournament on Sunday, November 13. Photo/Nick Eaton '17

Gamers representing colleges and universities across the region converged on the Visitor Center on Sunday, November 13, to compete in the final live rounds of an eSports Tournament hosted by Emerson College as part of an increased focus on the fast-growing events taking place in the new Sports Communication program.

Sunday’s championship, sponsored by the Department of Communication Studies with Emerson eSports and run by Emerson students, featured 16 players who had qualified from an initial field of 64 gamers. Participants included students from schools such as Boston University, Boston College, Northeastern University, Suffolk University, and MIT, who competed at the fast-paced strategy game Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft.

ESports has not only gained international popularity in the last decade, but has also paved the way for real jobs and opportunities for gamers and professionals who want to make a career in this virtual sports world. Understanding the broadening horizon of eSports, the new Sports Communication major at Emerson, which begins in Fall 2017, will include this fresh wave in the field in the curriculum.

“Sports is evolving very quickly, so we will not only teach aspects of the traditional sports, but also start a conversation about what is in store for the future,” said Spencer Kimball, senior scholar-in-residence in the Communication Studies Department and interim director of the Sports Communication program.

“Here at Emerson, we always try to be innovative and we keep pushing the envelope—eSports is one such opportunity,” Kimball added. “We are hoping to give our students insights into this arena so that eSports can evolve into a potential career for them. That is why we gave our students an opportunity to run this tournament and even brought in an expert who guided us through the entire process.”

Students watch competitors play Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft during Emerson's first eSports tournamet, held at the Visitor Center. Photo/Nick Eaton '17

ESports continues to generate interest among its fans because of its adaptability, accessibility, and the fact that the games are constantly reinvented through frequent updates. Capital is flowing into this field, making it a lucrative profession for some gamers.

Robert Ignatius, an eSports consultant who advised Emerson on the tournament, said that while sponsorship, viewership, and attendance numbers are dropping for live recreational sports, eSports is growing in all those areas.

“All the leading sponsors for the Super Bowl have started sponsoring eSports tournaments,” said Ignatius. “I would say in the next 15 years, the majority of the people would know how eSports operates.”

Joshua Wachs ’87, an Emerson College alumnus and member of the Board of Overseers who was actively involved in the event, said that it is important to include eSports in the curriculum, since it is on pace to become a billion-dollar industry by 2019.

“I see eSports as an addition, not as competition, to traditional sports,” said Wachs, who also noted that the interactive nature of eSports is an additional advantage over traditional sports. “If you go on [a live streaming platform owned by] to check the live audience for eSports, the number is as high as 30,000 to 40,000 online viewers, which proves that eSports can exist on its own.”

Wachs said by running tournaments, students are learning about the marketing, communication, and broadcasting aspects of such events.

Meanwhile, the participants were impressed by the professional nature of the event and were interested to return for the second edition of the tournament.

“My experience has been awesome, thanks to the tourney runners at Emerson,” said Brandon Pata '19. “I have participated in tournaments since I was young, but I haven’t been in such a professional atmosphere before. Even if you lose, you can have a good time and talk to other players because we all have a common interest.”

Jack Ross '17 announces at the eSports tournament. Photo/Nick Eaton '17
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