Fancy netting a six-figure salary by playing FIFA on your Xbox? Could your Call of Duty skills help you rake in a fortune on PlayStation? Computer games are big business and Northampton College is playing a pioneering role in finding the next breakout star of eSports.
The college is one of 72 across the country involved in the launch of the first-ever BTEC in eSports as competitive gaming continues to gain traction in the mainstream and evolve as a genuine career choice for the next generation of highly skilled gamers.
With most American colleges now having their own eSports courses and teams and all Premier League sides also having gamers representing their football clubs, the course will enable students to gain knowledge and skills in an ever-growing area.
They will have the opportunity to compete nationally and also develop an understanding of digital marketing, fundraising and event management – with the ultimate aim of seeing Northampton gamers at the forefront of the eSports revolution.
Pat Brennan-Barrett, principal of Northampton College, said: “We have a generation of students who are incredibly well versed in digital life. Gaming is no longer a hobby, it’s a genuine career choice and there is good money to be made for those who are early adopters and can spot a gap in the market.
“This course will look in-depth at the business side of eSports, focusing on strategy, entrepreneurship, live-streamed broadcasting, video production and computer networking – it’s far more than simply playing games with your mates, it’s an opportunity to do something spectacular.”
Televised FIFA tournaments starring professional footballers and competitive gamers gained impressive viewing figures both on YouTube and Sky Sports during the initial COVID-19 lockdown when elite sports were suspended.
The burgeoning eSports industry is projected to have generated revenues of more than £830m in 2020, equating to year-on-year growth of more than 16 per cent. The total global eSports audience is set to rise 11.7 per cent to around 495 million people.
The eSports course will be one of the flagship programmes in Northampton College’s state-of-the-art Digital Academy – due to open in September this year.
The Digital Academy, funded through the South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership (SEMLEP) and the Local Growth Fund, aims to close digital skills gaps across the county and develop students’ basic IT competences.
The Digital Academy will enable students to develop their skills from a basic to a specialist level, appropriate to their need. Digital spaces will encourage teams to network, create, plan and build.
Entrepreneurship will be at the heart of the academy with programmers working alongside creatives, coders with designers and technicians with marketeers to share ideas and build the businesses of the future.
As part of the planning process for the building, teams from the college visited a number of institutions to find a model on which the Digital Academy could be designed and built, including the East London Academy of Media/Music, the National College for Digital Skills and the Northamptonshire County Council offices at One Angel Square.
It promises to be a purpose-built facility constructed with the modern worker in mind – with scope for the sort of flexible workspace made even more in demand due to the remote working we are all now so accustomed to as a result of COVID-19.
Assistant Principal of Northampton College, Jake Zelcowicz, said:
“Colleges are at the centre of the economic rebuild and we are preparing a new generation of tech-savvy digital natives who are going to change the way we do things for years to come.
“Our Digital Academy is going to be a game changer for the Northampton economy. As a town we are at the forefront of the digital revolution, with a host of emerging start-ups and small businesses making waves in the exciting world of social media, games design, coding, virtual reality and artificial intelligence.
“We want people from different backgrounds to come together and build the businesses of the future by putting together the best creative minds and setting them on a journey of discovery to see what their ideas and technical skills can develop.
“Those businesses are going to be the backbone of the town’s economy for years to come, creating jobs attracting investment and uniting communities.”
For more information about the Level 3 eSports course at Northampton College visit www.northamptoncollege.ac.uk/courses/games-design/570-level-3/2476-level-3-esports.html.