Full Sail University boasts a “game-heavy” culture and a brand new esports degree. Esports.gg spoke to their faculty about their mission.
For most millennials the idea of our parents taking us to an esports event as a child to compete seems insane, but for 200 young gamers that idea became a reality at the XP League North American Finals. As part of a partnership, the event was hosted in a collegiate esports arena on the Full Sail University campus.
Esports.gg spoke with Full Sail University faculty members about the their involvement in the event and what they're doing to educate the next generation of esports fans through a brand new degree.
XP League NA Finals - A thunderous success
On June 25th to 26th, over 200 young gamers (8 to 15 years old) took part in the XP League North American Finals. The event was the finale of an online qualification with the best youth teams in Fortnite, Rocket League, Overwatch and VALORANT going head-to-head.
XP League NA Finals Winners:
- Rocket League - Franklin Storm
- Fortnite - Loudoun Tsunami
- Valorant - Madison Marvels
- Overwatch - Franklin Shogun
The XP League is the first-to-market youth esports league franchise in North America, and aims to offer passionate young gamers in elementary, middle and high school a chance to flex their skills.
"I was extremely impressed by the production and precision of the XP League Finals. I participated last year and this truly jumped up to the next level," said Taylor "SomebodysGun" Yates, the host for the 2021-2022 NA Finals.
"Everything was executed and put the kids front and center. The best part to me was seeing the support from parents. They cheered their kids on each and every round. I don't know if they knew how the games worked but the crowd would explode each time a round was won."
Full Sail University opened their Studios for the XP League NA Finals
As part of a partnership, the finals were held on campus at Full Sail University. While typically an event being held at a university doesn’t sound particularly elite, Full Sail University is no typical university.
The university offered XP League full use of their two state-of-the-art facilities; the Full Sail University Orlando Health Fortress and Full Sail Live.
The Fortress, as it is more commonly known, is the university’s 500-seat on-campus collegiate esports arena. Meanwhile Full Sail Live is their 22,000 sq ft multi-purpose facility used to host live performances.
A partnership that grants students invaluable experience
Full Sail University’s partnership with XP League began in 2021, and has become a excellent pathway for students to gain hands-on experience.
“The plug-in really happened with what XP League put on, I think it is a really fantastic product, and it aligns right with what our students are learning," said Sari Kitelyn, Director of Esports and Project Development at Full Sail University.
Full Sail University offers their students a wide range of media based degrees, many of which overlap with the growing esports and gaming scene.
“One of the really cool things about the events that we do with organizations such as XP League is that our students benefit. It is a huge opportunity for getting hands-on experience of event management, on top of being a great resume booster,” said Bennett Newsome, Esports Strategist at Full Sail University.
“We had students working in every capacity for the XP League tournament, whether it was observing, tournament management or stage management."
What is more two graduates from the Dan Patrick School of Sportscasting degree were given a spot on the casting desk by XP League.
Jacob Kaplan, Creative Project Strategist at Full Sail University added: "The two graduates actually recently cast our Special Olympics event, so it's just awesome to get them more experience as well, especially as esports and gaming is something they are so passionate about."
Full Sail University’s “Game heavy” culture
Full Sail University’s interest in gaming is not new and the culture has always been “game heavy” according to Sari Kitelyn, Director of Esports and Project Development at Full Sail University. In fact the school has had degree programs in game development for over 30 years.
They also have the Full Sail Armada, a collegiate team that competes in 10 different titles who have the luxury of playing out of the Fortress (pictured below). However, Kitelyn is quick to point out that the university's collegiate program is different to others, and chooses to focus on student interest over a win-at-all-costs mentality.
"We love competing with other universities and with other programs, but our focus is not necessarily on excelling in a competitive space, but more playing everything that everybody wants to play," explained Kitelyn.
"We're not actively investing into recruiting top talent to build a League of Legends team so we can win Worlds. Instead we're supporting 10 different titles and giving those teams coaching, communications and an education to take them to the next level."
"The goal of everything that we have with our esports program is to make sure students can work in the fields they want to work in. I always say 'I love so much that you love esports but loving esports is not enough to get you a job in esports, you need actual skills. So let's figure out what you love about it and see what skills we can work on to make it more like a career of yours'."
Full Sail University's formal interest in incorporating esports into their courses is only a recent phenomenon, but they are well aware of the career opportunities it now offers.
“When we started getting involved in esports in a formalized fashion about 5-6 years ago, we put a prime focus on taking the passion our existing students already had for esports and gaming and tailored their degree to show them the career paths in esports and gaming that align with what they’re learning," explained Sari Kitelyn.
A brand new Game Business and Esports degree
The keen student interest in the esports space - particularly in the entertainment business program - prompted the university to design a brand new degree.
“We’ve always viewed esports as an evolution of the entertainment industry,” added Kitelyn, Director of Esports and Project Development at Full Sail University.
“The students were studying the concept already through various degree programs. When it came to figuring out the right niche for us to get into when it came to educating within the gaming and esports space, the business side of things was really the avenue that we thought was the right path to take.”
As a result, earlier this year Full Sail University announced its upcoming brand new undergraduate degree program in Game Business and Esports (BSc).
The “accelerated bachelor’s degree program” can be completed in either 20 months on campus or 29 months online. With the first course set to start on August 1st.
Before you ask, at time of writing there are still spaces available.
Special thanks to Bennett Newsome, Sari Kitelyn and Jacob Kaplan of Full Sail University.