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Overwatch Tournament Gives 'Once In A Lifetime Experience' For UH Students

UH West Oahu esports computers acm
Casey Harlow
The Academy for Creative Media facility at UH West Oahu houses the latest equipment and facilities for film and media production. Among other things it also dedicates rooms for esports and new media.

The Overwatch League will be holding its second international esports tournament at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa this week. While the event validates the state's esports potential, it also highlights the educational programs and opportunities available to UH students.

The Overwatch League's summer tournament series is the first major mainstream video game tournament being held in the state. It also marks the first time an international esports competition is being held on a college campus.

This gives UH students an opportunity to gain real-world experience with industry professionals in charge of organizing, producing and broadcasting the tournament to millions of people around the world.

"I think it's a great experience, like I definitely enjoy interacting with all the Overwatch League staff, and getting to see the players down here," said Justin Chow, a creative media student at UH Mānoa. "It's definitely a once in a lifetime experience."

Chow studies film and video editing at UH's academy for creative media. In his spare time, he makes highlight reels and other video content for UH's competitive esports teams.

"If I'm at a live event, I will be filming a lot of the player interactions, and set up a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff," he said. "A lot of that would go into the cinematography [side], and getting good shots and knowing what to film."

He is one of a handful of students who will help oversee the operation and broadcast of this week's tournament. Students are being offered internships or college credits for taking part in the tournaments.

It's also giving students an inside track to obtaining a career in a multi-billion dollar industry.

Before the league announced it was holding a tournament at UH, Chow planned to use his highlight reels and video content to try to get a job at Blizzard Entertainment - creator of the game Overwatch.

Now, he's learning from Blizzard employees.

"I've been really getting a lot of hands-on experience to see what it's like setting up a broadcast, and setting up all the computers and seeing all the behind-the-scenes tricks," he said.

"Before this event was even brought up, I was looking at working at Blizzard Entertainment. The Overwatch League, I've always loved it since Season One. Even with them coming down now reinforces my passion to try and get a job at Blizzard."

Chow also has an opportunity to meet the players on his favorite team - the Dallas Fuel - who qualified for this week's tournament.

UH Mānoa New Certificate Program

Esports and video games contributed $116 billion to the global media industry in 2020. And it's growing at a rate of 13% a year.

Several programs in the UH system aim to give students a leg up in their esports careers - from broadcasting to video game development and programming.

One is the creative computational media certificate, which is being offered for the first time this fall. It incorporates courses in theatre, computer science and engineering.

Professor Jason Leigh helped create the program, giving students the best opportunity to find a career in tomorrow's media landscape. Leigh says the combination of technical skills and art is becoming essential for the next generation of graduates.

"Computers have entered the movie industry, computers have entered the sound industry for music productions, for sound effects production - it's everywhere. And so, having the ability to understand both halves of the coin is absolutely crucial in today's society," Leigh said.

"We needed a way to make sure students have the ability to take those same classes that integrated all these together," he added.

Leigh says the CCM certificate can be translated to video game development, data visualization for companies, or even create new art exhibits and installations.

"The industry already combines these components together," Leigh said.

New Facility In West Oahu Hopes To Inspire Creation

UHWO UH West Oahu ACM Academy for Creative Media.jpg
Casey Harlow / HPR
UH West Oahu Chancellor Maenette Benham gives a tour of the school's new Academy for Creative Media facility. The facility houses state of the art equipment in film and media production.

Twenty miles west of Mānoa, UH West Oʻahu's Academy for Creative Media facility will open its doors for the first time this fall. It houses state-of-the-art equipment and facilities for film and media production, sound and editing. It also has dedicated rooms for media and esports.

"This is a self-contained, comprehensive facility where you can start off with an idea and just go with it," said Maenette Benham, chancellor of UH West Oʻahu.

ACM director Sharla Hanaoka says they are using esports as a way for students to pursue a career within the industry.

"Our program already handles content making and production," Hanaoka said. "We thought it's best to look at the angle of esports management. So how do you run an operation of esports? What could you do after graduating playing games, but now you want to be part of the workforce?"

Like its sister campus, UH West Oʻahu developed its program by incorporating other courses - giving students a larger and more thorough scope of the industry and its opportunities.

"It's the business end of it, it's the design end of it, it's the ethics end of it," Benham said. "So our folks are actually talking to FBI, attorneys or whatnot. Just so our students really get a full 360 understanding of all the opportunities around this growing industry."

Casey Harlow is an HPR reporter and occasionally fills in as local host of Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Contact him at charlow@hawaiipublicradio.org or on Twitter (@CaseyHarlow).
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