12:21 PM

Ohio State trustees receive update on new esports program


When Senior Vice President for Research Morley Stone was transitioning into his new role at The Ohio State University, one of the programs he was interested in learning about was the university’s new comprehensive esports program.

“I was genuinely delighted by how far along the planning had been with respect to this initiative,” Stone said.

Stone was joining Ohio State after serving as the chief technology officer at the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and the Air Force is no stranger to esports and gaming technology.

“Because of my previous world with the Defense Department, I want to convey to you how transformative gaming technology has become. Use of gaming technology and specific gaming engines to develop synthetic environments to contribute to pilot training has been transformational,” he said to members of the Board of Trustees Academic Affairs and Student Life Committee last week.

Stone was part of a presentation to update trustees on the development of the university’s esports program since it was officially unveiled last month. The interdisciplinary curriculum will focus on game studies and esports and is expected to be one of the first of its kind in higher education.

The program is currently under development and involves five colleges at Ohio State. The new curriculum will include undergraduate and graduate degrees; an elective course in esports content production; online certification programs for specialized credentials; and a gaming speaker series.

“This is not teaching students how to play the games. This is developing the games, it’s the technology that goes into them, the psychology and human health components,” said Executive Vice President and Provost Bruce A. McPheron.

Specific areas of study may include esports management, game art and production, game design, programming, the business of games, and health and rehabilitation.

“This is an endeavor that really encompasses the breadth of the university. It’s a new curriculum development concept, it’s actual research, it’s in fact part of student life and has substantial student interest,” McPheron said.

Stone said some of the research possibilities include the use of gaming to aid rehabilitation, understand the cognitive development of esports athletes and exploring the potential of artificial intelligence.

Senior Vice President for Student Life Javaune Adams-Gaston said the value of an esports program extends beyond the classroom and the research lab and into the lives of students. She said a state-of-the-art arena is being built on campus to serve as home to Ohio State’s esports teams and open to all students.

“Really it’s an opportunity to pull students out of their dorms or out of their room if they live off campus, into a large, integrated opportunity to engage with their peers,” she said.

Adams-Gaston said the current esports teams offer experience in team building, strategy and leadership. She said the comprehensive nature of Ohio State’s esports program would help broaden the perspective of students.

“All of those things we hope will move them toward thinking more globally about what they’re doing in the esports world,” she said.

Trustee Hiroyuki Fujita asked if the program would seek partnerships with the gaming industry. Ohio State is actively seeking input from industry partners to construct the most comprehensive programs possible.

Trustee Clark Kellogg offered the most direct question.

“If we don’t do this would we miss out?” he asked.

“It would be an opportunity missed to not take a leadership role here,” McPheron said. “But this is a place where the comprehensive capacity and the fact that this builds to all of our core strengths and mission really holds up something we need to treat seriously and make some inroads into.”