Talk with any collegiate esports coach across the nation, and you’ll soon find that their lists of responsibilities expand beyond coaching their teams. Esports coaches are often collaborating with many different departments within their institutions, the most common being academics. 

While many coaches stipulate a minimum GPA requirement for students to remain active on their esports roster (like Boise State University who requires a 2.5 GPA or higher to be eligible to participate in matches), the collaboration between esports and academics goes a step beyond simply cross-checking a few numbers in a database.

Esports coaches and the decision-makers in academics are coming together to discuss new types of curriculum, like Shenandoah University’s Esports Management program. This program is a business administration concentration that prepares students for careers in the esports industry. As one of the first colleges in the nation to offer a concentration in esports management, Shenandoah boasts that their esports major “helps prepare students to be an integral part of the action in a field that values quick and strategic thinking, mental agility, intellectual curiosity and creativity.” 

Educators have been turning their attention to the social and educational benefits of esports and video games in an effort to foster an inclusive social environment, boost enrollment/retention, and offer new and exciting major and minor selections to students. The marriage of video games and education doesn’t stop there, however. Some schools have gamers among their faculty who are integrating specific video games into their curriculum.

Dr. Tore Olsson, a history professor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, is a long-time gamer and passionate educator. After taking a hiatus from the gaming universe due to real-life obligations, Olsson found himself seeking a new pastime during the pandemic. 

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Olsson then picked up Red Dead Redemption 2 after consulting with a colleague. As a history buff, he was fascinated by the contents of the game as it related to the late 19th and early 20th centuries of American history.

In a podcast with the Academy of Esports, Olsson speaks on his fascination with the fictionalized universe of RDR2, saying, “[The developers] are making gestures towards some serious historical questions like women’s suffrage, the rise of Jim Crow, railroads, and corporate capitalism, that don’t advance the storyline but are set pieces. As a historian, [I think] maybe we can use this game to talk about these really meaty and difficult questions in turn of century American history.”

This Fall, Olsson will teach a course titled “Red Dead America” where he and his students will dissect the historical reality behind the series. In a Tweet from early February, Olsson expands on the breadth of topics that will be discussed, including:

  • Wealth inequalities during the Gilded Age
  • The Mexican Revolution
  • Women’s suffrage 
  • The privatization of law enforcement 
  • And other historical dilemmas of the era

As the educational landscape continues to shift as a result of digitization and as video game popularity continually rises, it makes sense that esports, gaming, and education are combining forces. Olsson is among many educators and gaming enthusiasts who have made the connection and implemented changes to better serve their students. 

With our roots in the varsity esports sphere, Ritual Motion is committed to shining the light on these exciting and unique individuals and opportunities. Let us know in the comments about the cool things you’ve done or seen in the varsity space!