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ESL and University of York announce world-first esports collaboration

Posted on 27 June 2017

The University of York and ESL - the world’s largest esports company - have today announced a new teaching and research partnership agreement.


The unique partnership will allow York to pioneer UK-based teaching and research facilities tailored to the rapidly evolving esports industry.

Esports – the competitive playing of video games online – is projected to grow into a multi-million pound industry over the next two years. In 2016 the industry generated over £384m in revenue, and over 290m people worldwide watched or played esports in 2016.

In the UK alone there are 3.1 million esports viewers spanning a wide demographic – 21 per cent of these are women aged between 21 and 35.

Esports hub

Recognising the potential of esports, the UK Association for Interactive Entertainment (UKIE) has highlighted the importance of growing the UK as an esports hub, including the need to develop UK-based, highly skilled talent and to foster technological innovation.

This new collaboration includes York’s Digital Creativity Labs, an £18 million research initiative focusing on the convergence of digital games and interactive media and one of the biggest games research labs in the world; the University of York's Department of Theatre, Film and Television; and the Department of Computer Science, one of the highest ranked in the UK.

The collaboration has three key aims:

  • Teaching - ESL will hold regular masterclasses with University of York students, including workshops and taster days. The University is committed to aligning teaching offerings to the needs of the industry, while also offering BSc & MSc dissertations on esports. ESL and York are co-designing an elective module on esports content production as a third year, credit-bearing module, aiming to launch Autumn 2018.
  • Research - Alongside an investment of over $1m in continual research into future innovations in the esports industry, the collaboration will see paid PhD internships take place through the Intelligent Games and Game Intelligence (IGGI) PhD programme and Digital Creativity Labs. Pioneering esports research already explored by DC Labs investigates areas including AI, human behaviour, interactive storytelling, data visualisation, game analytics and more.
  • Careers - ESL internships will provide hands-on experience for outstanding undergraduate students, while industry placements will be available for select PhD students.

Peter Cowling, Director of the Digital Creativity Labs at York and Professor in Computer Science, said: “Esports has massive potential to outgrow conventional sports, and our collaboration with ESL provides us with an exceptional opportunity to pioneer highly relevant, impact-driven research in this area.”

Rapidly growing industry

Andrew Higson, Head of York’s Department of Theatre, Film and TV, added: “Esports lies at the convergence of two of our excellent programmes, Film and TV Production and Interactive Media. Partnering with ESL is an exceptional opportunity for us to develop exciting teaching and career paths for our students in the rapidly growing esports industry.”

James Dean, Managing Director of ESL UK, said: “We’re incredibly excited to be entering into a partnership with the University of York to help develop fresh new esports talent. We’ve always been committed to creating opportunities for more people to enter the industry and now, with the help of the University of York, we’re looking forward to being able to help make sure the future is even brighter and better than it is now.”

Further information:

  • About ESL:

ESL, a part of the international digital entertainment group MTG, is the world's largest esports company, leading the industry across the most popular video games with numerous online and offline competitions. It operates high profile, branded international and national leagues and tournaments such as the Intel® Extreme Masters, ESL One, ESL National Championships and other top tier stadium-size events, as well as grassroots amateur cups, leagues and matchmaking systems. ESL covers a broad field of services in gaming technology, event management, advertising and television production, fully catering to the needs of the esports ecosystem. With offices in North America, Germany, Russia, France, Poland, Spain, China, and partners in many other countries, it has a truly global footprint (

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