In the field of neuroscience, there is a lot of research on the effects video games have on the brain. Video game addiction has been declared a medical disorder by the WHO, but some research supports the benefits of certain video games in treating specific disorders. Some games can help those on the autism spectrum with social skills, and there are game platforms like Kinect for stroke recovery and memory loss.
At the same time, esports are gaining popularity. What are esports? Much like teams that play baseball or football in a brick and mortar stadium, esports are teams of video game players that compete against each other in online tournaments and competitions. The popularity of esports is driving academia as well. Ohio State University is getting in the game by beginning an esports project across five of its colleges to create a curriculum and research program that looks at the effects video games have on the brain and body, provides instruction in developing video games, and brings esports to their students as both an activity and a potential career field.
The goal of the program at Ohio State is to gather faculty, resources, and staff from academics, collegiate competition, and multidisciplinary research to give students as many opportunities as possible to be a part of the gaming industry.
Deborah M. Grzybowski is the co-director of the game studies and esports curriculum development and an associate professor of practice in The Ohio State University Department of Engineering Education. She explained, "With Ohio State being a leader in engineering, academics, research, and medicine, it seems a natural fit to pull all of these together to support the esports program."
The main part of the program is an interdisciplinary involving five colleges from Ohio State and will focus on game studies and esports. Financial experts estimate that it's a growing field in the tech economy and is the first of its kind in higher ed. Ohio State will offer undergraduate and graduate degrees, elective courses in esports content production, and online certification programs for individual specialties in gaming. They will also host well-known pioneers in gaming for a speaker series. An arena is being built on campus with state the art equipment for gaming and will be open to all students, not just those pursuing gaming-related degrees. Ohio State will join with other universities in a new esports league that has been formed to oversee the competition.
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Research into the effects gaming has on the brain and body will also be part of the mix with experts at the Wexner Medical Center heading up studies on the impact of video game play at this level. Here neuroscientists and others will study how esport athletes can train efficiently, improve reaction times and how the brain is impacted by high-level gaming. James Onate, co-director of the Sports Medicine Movement Analysis and Performance Program at the university said, "Ohio State is known for high-performance athletics, and esports plays to this strength. The methods are the same as any other sport; the skills are just different. We have a lot to learn from studying esports athletes, from their exceptional reaction times and rapid decision-making abilities to their physical attributes and health behaviors."
Check out the video below to learn more about what this program can bring to neuroscience, education and the growing video game economy.