Esports are competitive video games often played live at tournaments. They are one of the fastest growing forms of mainstream entertainment, projected to grow to a worldwide audience of over half a billion players by 2020.
Esports includes digital versions of physical sports, plus digital card games, fantasy games and first-person shooting games.
In esports, all the online action is tracked and digitally recorded producing extensive datasets which log player performance, game strategies and events.
Using AI and the latest data-driven technologies, researchers led by Dr Florian Block, are interpreting this rich source of data to open up new narratives and insights about the game, enhancing the experience for players and viewers.
The Echo system, developed in 2017, was the first AI-based tool to detect gaming highlights which could be translated into graphics. This visual narrative opened up new realms of player engagement - and paved the way for the £5.8m WEAVR project, part of the Government’s ‘Audience of the Future’ scheme.
Working in collaboration with industry, the WEAVR consortium is breaking down complex gameplay data to create new narratives such as instant highlight recaps.
The project is also developing narratives that span across multiple devices; it has made important advances in visualisations such as interactive views of live arenas and it has opened up new opportunities to use audience metrics for audience insights.
Products generated by this research are a central technological component in a suite of commercial applications that are now widely used in the fast-expanding esports industry.
ESL, the world’s largest esports content producer, is the industry lead of the WEAVR consortium.
The company has showcased technology developed at York at flagship international esports tournaments bringing new narratives and interactive experiences to over 50 million viewers worldwide. This has created new revenue streams for ESL strengthening its position as a leading innovator in the gaming industry. Other WEAVR consortium members have benefitted from the work with new visualisation developments that have led to the creation of 45 new tech-focused jobs.
The research underpins a new teaching programme on esports content production - and has helped raise awareness of esports as an emerging form of mainstream entertainment attracting interest from telecommunication companies, traditional sports broadcasters and government bodies.