The Risks and Rewards of Collegiate Esports: A Multi-Case Study of Gamers in the United States and Italy

The Risks and Rewards of Collegiate Esports: A Multi-Case Study of Gamers in the United States and Italy

Julie A. Delello, Rochell R. McWhorter, Paul B. Roberts, Tonia De Giuseppe, Felice Corona
Copyright: © 2023 |Pages: 22
DOI: 10.4018/IJGCMS.317115
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As participation in electronic sports (esports) continues to expand globally, colleges and universities are considering how such competitive video gaming might impact recruitment, retention, and the overall student engagement experience. This mixed-methods study focuses on the perceptions of college students in both the United States and Italy regarding the esports phenomenon. A compilation of the research findings from two case studies compared and contrasted themes associated with the benefits and risks to college students participating in esports. The findings highlighted the notion that even during challenging times such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the college students in this study were still driven to invest their time in esports play. However, the risks such as those of addiction, health impairment, and social isolation may outweigh the perceived benefits to game play. Included are critical considerations and policy recommendations for campus esports programs as well as future directions in research.
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Esports incorporates various elements such as business, technology, culture, informatics, and sports (Reitman, et al., 2020). Numerous definitions for esports exist that include Weiss (2008) who defined it as “playing competitive games according to generally accepted rules of leagues and tournaments on the Internet” (p. 572). Jenny et al. (2016) simply defined esports as “organized video game competitions” (p. 35). For the purposes of this research paper, we will utilize a recent definition for esports as “a computer-mediated form of competitive gaming within a multiplayer environment” (Delello et al., 2021, p. 3). Irrespective of the definition, the combination of gaming and sports has existed for decades. A historical look at the blending of gaming and sports includes arcades in the 1970s and 1980s with trendy games (in stand-alone gaming cabinets) such as Space Invaders, Pacman, Galaga, Asteroids (Hughes, 2018; Museum of the Game, 2021), and Defender (Heilmann, 2014). In that era, games such as Atari and Pong were also played in the home with gaming consoles and televisions (Lendino, 2017). The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) then ushered in the modern console-gaming era with games such as Donkey Kong and Mario Bros. (Wolf, 2012).

The 1970s also brought esports video game competitions such as the Space Invaders’ Championship at Stanford University (Baker, 2016). Atari hosted the Space Invaders Championship in 1980 that attracted over ten thousand U.S. participants and soon thereafter, other competitions ensued utilizing other popular games such as Donkey Kong and Pac-Man with the evolution from arcade games to consoles, and then video games were played on the computer (Mills, 2021). More recently, the 2021 League of Legends championship was one of the most watched esports events in history surpassing an Average Minute Audience (AMA) of more than thirty thousand viewers (Riot, 2021).

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