Venezuela’s novel proposal: Studying videogames at university

By Hector Pereira

Caracas, Jul 26 (EFE).- Virtual sports has achieved relevance in Venezuela with the creation of the first e-Sports Academy, where videogame lovers can study at a university and exercise their talents in the industry with an eye toward excelling in the lucrative business of participating in international competitions.

The director of Academia e.Sports, Juan Sanchez, told EFE that the endeavor is “rather challenging for the university because (it’s about incorporating a novel – and a little bit disruptive – activity into the academic environment.”

The professor, who is convinced of the economic benefits of “professionalizing” virtual sportsmen, said that the academy seeks to “accelerate the whole process of training in an industry that’s global, but which in (Venezuela) is significantly lagging due to technological issues,” including constant power blackouts and poor Internet connections.

Those drawbacks are being dealt with within the Andres Bello Catholic University (UCAB), in Caracas, where the academy has been established and which hopes to welcome the country’s best “gamers” starting in August, when the educational curriculum will be formally made available.

With different planning, other Latin American universities years ago incorporated the study of videogaming into their curricula, including the Universidad ORT in Montevideo, Uruguay, which provides a degree in Animation and Videogames. In Spain, too, there are several centers of higher learning that offer courses in the subject.

The curriculum is divided into three levels, with the first being basic training for students who want to get a formal initiation as videogamers and improve their skills in virtual spaces such as “League of Legends (LOL)” or “Fortnite,” which are played by millions of people all around the world.

The second level, Sanchez said, will consist of gamers who satisfactorily complete their basic training. “The gamers need to professionalize themselves and they’re going to obtain all the skills and tools needed to become professional gamers,” he said.

Once they have surmounted these two hurdles, students on the senior (or third) level will begin receiving advice on how the virtual gaming clubs and other ways of making money as an online gamer function, and Sanchez said that there are many ways of making money with the skills and knowledge they will have acquired.

“If you want to get into this industry, you have to professionalize yourself because the competition is not local, the competition is global,” he emphasized, issuing a call for changing the paradigm according to which videogames are considered to be merely leisure activities and starting to view them as “a way of life.”

The academy’s goal is not to provide academic titles to videogaming students but rather to certify videogamers and cause knowledge about the advantages of the industry to spread among all universities, in terms of management, in teaching and in the lives of anyone interested in these online platforms.

“The educational model is changing … because the times are accelerating. There are other methods of self-training or training in shorter cycles and, OK, the university is adapting to those new needs,” Sanchez said.

With this vision of studying for shorter periods, albeit more intensively, the academy is also planning to train specialized sports narrators in the world of e-sports, where he said that “There’s a set of rules, there’s a referee, there are tournaments, there’s a competition model,” and so it stops being simply recreation and becomes a competitive environment.

It’s all about “introducing changes in viewpoints so as to understand that videogames are a training opportunity for kids” and a road toward financial advantage in the short-term.

Although the formal classes will begin in August, the academy has already opened its doors to UCAB students to participate in competitions, exchange ideas and skills and absorb the collective experience within a modern educational setting, with good lighting and big-screen computers.

“It’s not that I devote 100 percent of my time to LOL. Rather, it’s a hobby that I use to kill time when I’m bored,” said Daniel Madrid, an Information Engineering student, after finishing a videogaming session.

The fact that no females are currently participating in the pre-curriculum activities, however, is a gap that academy staff hope to resolve once regular classes begin.

When consulted about the possibility of pursuing coursework in videogaming, the 21-year-old expressed caution and said he preferred to wait to see how these programs evolve. “If a team needs to be created, I’m here and ready to help out,” he said.

The good news, Sanchez said, is that the kids are already playing online and “they’re already obtaining positions in international tournaments,” which gives the academy an undeniable advantage vis-a-vis other training models that require much more time for their scholastic elements and then practicing with the knowledge acquired.

EFE hp/sb/pddp/bp

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