It's common to say “It takes a village to raise a child.” This timeless proverb is an illustration of what is required to build something to its greatest heights. At a theoretical level, it describes a village being essential to the growth of a child in it. In the grand scheme of things, this proverb means that cooperation and collaboration in everything we do as people assures the best possible outcomes. If one were to examine our collegiate scene, what would they conclude? What child is being raised by our village?
What would be revealed is the ongoing community effort to develop collegiate esports, our child, on all fronts. From varsity programs to partnerships to long running leagues, the collegiate village has began expanding the realm of collegiate esports. At the forefront of that community are those at Twitch Student, who, through their tireless work day in and day out, are forging a path for the collegiate space now and tomorrow.
As a platform, Twitch is at the forefront of esports and gaming as a whole. Esports broadcasts, athletes, content creators and the gaming community live and breathe on the streaming website that is host to millions of viewers. As an organization, Twitch has become dedicated to taking advantage of its status and using it to help continue to progress the esports industry.
Twitch Student is their work towards cultivating the collegiate esports space. It was born from the mind of Twitch’s Director of Strategic Partnerships, Mark “Garvey” Candella, in 2015 with the intentions of becoming an initiative that empowers and gives voice to students within the industry. Twitch Student has been designed to create an apparatus for universities, students and teams to facilitate growth in the realm.
“We realize that students are the future and they’ve made some really great accomplishments in the industry already on their own.” Candella said. “We wanted to come in and provide tools, knowledge and support so their programs become sustainable and have some continuity to it and some consistency...”
For the program, it’s about bringing together three aspects of esports into a triforce of effectiveness. Students, school executives and experienced individuals within the sphere working towards stability and advancement.
“The whole idea is for students, administrators and industry insiders to work together as equals,” he said, “and create great new programs for Universities.”
For Candella and Twitch Student, understanding where the future lies and preparing and developing students for it is essential for the market as it continues to flourish.
“What drives Twitch Student is to create opportunities for students in this industry.” he said. “.. we feel that students, with appropriate support and education can come and identify what the industry is missing and add to it in new and innovative ways.”
That support and education can be found in Twitch Student. As the collegiate realm continues to prosper, organizations like Twitch helps students find a coordinated home on the internet and at their University base.
“What we really want to contribute is working with individual Universities, students and administrators and giving students a great structure to look at.”
On the administrative level, Candella says they also provide qualitative and quantitative data to universities on why it would be exciting to not only work with Twitch themselves, but to get involved in esports in general at that level.
Twitch Student lives by a creed, one that is about assuring excellence for all in an open and wide domain where no one is left behind.
“We have three pillars of the program,” Candella explained. “Inclusivity, diversity and collaboration.”
It’s no secret that in esports, especially collegiate esports, casual players or students that aren’t at the same level of expertise of others can often feel disenfranchised. The same can be said for athletes of less popular games. There is a glaring disconnect between hardcore and casual players within the scene. Twitch Student seeks to remedy that.
“When we work with students we want to make sure that all the gaming groups are represented.” Candella said. “I think the University of Washington is a great example of that. They have the Washington Gaming Association, that’s basically an umbrella organization that works with every single gaming club on the campus. It doesn’t matter if it’s Magic The Gathering, League of Legends or Overwatch, they all treat each individual community with great respect and support them in many, many ways.”
Candella says this is the mission statement of Twitch Student above all else. While the program does work closely with top level tournament organizers to help produce the best competitive environments at this level, the core of Twitch Student is with the troves of students within clubs at these universities. Aiding in constitutional development, administrative support and infrastructural guidance is what Twitch student is aiming for.
“That’s, I think, the greatest contribution.” he said. “We want to make sure that students are empowered and administrators support them so that when they do compete, they’re competing at the highest levels is they so choose. If not, they have a huge community on their campus that welcomes them with open arms, whether you’re a bronze player or challenger. There is still a structure for them to have a community, great experiences while they’re in college and opportunity for them to see this industry and try to find themselves in it, in whatever way that might be.”
Twitch Student has created its very own ecosystem and process when it comes to interacting with students and universities. When it comes to how a university operates on the Twitch site itself, the programs handbook describes it in two levels.
Level One is setting up a connection with Twitch and Twitch Student. Organizations do this by creating a university team page on the Twitch site and customizing it in whatever way your university sees fit.
Level Two is creating a consistent broadcast schedule, meeting a 9 hour a week broadcast mandate and then beginning the process of becoming a partnered club on the Twitch site - which means a subscription button, revenue from advertisements, on-site Twitch staff support and event apparel.
With the on-site side of the program, Twitch Student broadens exposure for programs and players within them, giving university communities an online space to interact and function.
“The tools that we provide...” Candella said. “It’s supposed to create a proof of concept for how students will organize and then represent the college as a whole through a Twitch Team Page. The team pages idea is to create a representation for the university as a whole.”
These “proof of concepts” as Candella put it, function equally as an aggregated area in which students at university interact and as a place administrators can see, visually, the proof in the platform and support. It creates visibility for clubs and the students in them.
It doesn’t end with the on-site support though. It is, rather, a beginning. The people at Twitch Student and more specifically Candella himself, go the extra mile to connect.
“Usually the way it works, is that students will introduce me to a faculty member,” Candella explained. “And then I offer a few phone calls and then I’ll jump on a plane and I’ll fly out to a university to spend a day with administrators...my goal in doing that is to explain the industry, the history of the industry, where we were, where we are now and where we could be together...and then I’ll sit back and answer any questions they might have and offer my assistance in any shape or form.”
Candella highlights that when Twitch Student started, there was only one varsity program at the collegiate level that had been given notice, Robert Morris University (IL). However, through the works of Candella’s program and student work within this ecosystem format, there are now almost 50 schools with varsity programs.
“That really takes a certain level of comfort,” he said. “And letting administrators know they aren’t in it by themselves. You have great students that can help you drive the program, you have excited and passionate people in the industry that are offering anything they can provide to the universities.”
By creating these comfort levels for wary administrators, Candella ensures that collegiate programs supported by their schools continue to grow, as he's done with previous schools.
Through the work that Candella and Twitch Student commit to, colleges and campuses are opening up and embracing the world of esports. So much so, that it is beginning to even affect curriculum.
“We’ve actually reached another level in the work that we do with administrators...” Candella said. “I’m on the board of advisors for many colleges in North America and Europe and I’m helping administrators understand what a holistic program looks like, where there is a curriculum that wraps around either their gaming club, gaming society or varsity esports program.”
Candella calls this new curriculum, which is 80% traditional and 20% new, “Entertainment in a Digital Medium as Applied to Gaming and Esports.” It is a part of his and Twitch Student’s commitment to cultivating not only successful students in just esports, but successful students as a whole.
“It’s a great way for students have this great broad base of knowledge,.” he said. “When they graduate they can apply economics, business, digital media, marketing to any industry, but they do have that twenty percent that applies it specifically to this industry. What’s really exciting about this is that with these new kinds of curriculums that are coming out, students from every department can be involved in varsity programs.”
With this, students from every walk of education can gain practical experience within esports programs and knowledge and experience that they can take with them to any job or career. These new forms of curriculum and facilitation transform the experience that a student can have when entering the workforce, whether in esports or not.
One of the varsity programs that follows this mantra is arguably the most competitively successful one in North America, Maryville, whose directors and administrators have gone on record to state their commitments to developing their esports athletes as people and professionals above all else. Candella agrees with the sentiment and mission of working towards this.
“Maryville was one of the first colleges that I flew out to and I spent a day with.” Candella said. “..Dan (Clerke) was kind enough to give me a tour and make these great, great introductions. It IS really about growing professionals in the industry, and it might not be the way that a lot of people are thinking about it. It’s not really about the 1% that compete at the highest level….when we look at professionals we’re not looking only at content creators and professional players, we’re looking at digital media, marketing, engineers, economic majors.”
Through this example, Maryville exemplifies what Twitch Student and Candella wish to achieve across every university they work with and throughout the industry, engaging students and administrators in an environment that is equal parts educational and competitive, which complement and grow one another.
“It’s not only about the what and the how, but to focus on why,” he said. “Why is this important, why is this cool what Maryville is doing? Why is it great that Dan has sacrificed so much of his limited bandwidth to making sure he is creating opportunities for students? Maybe the economics department comes in and looks at the monetization options that we give universities to figure out a sustainable business plan and to take the next logical step. How about creating a Maryville workshop channel where these students that are applying their education directly to the teams can do these great student run workshops saying ‘Maryville supplied me with these tools and this software’ and this is the creative process that I go through.”
With this focus in place, the next generation of professionals in esports will be better equipped than those before them, ready to progress the scene to even brighter heights, because of the work to bring educational focus and innovation to the collegiate experience in esports.
One of the things that Twitch Student is most proud of his its work in providing support for the international community in collegiate esports. It is surprising that in an industry that is so global, and was birthed and popularized in areas such as Korea and Europe, that esports at the university level are so North American-focused. However, as Candella says, Twitch Student is dedicated to expanding beyond that bubble.
“This is the first program that we’ve created that is truly international.” he said. “We know no borders.”
Most recently, Twitch Student worked with tournament organizers in Europe to help develop and cover the UE Masters tournament, which culminated in the studio finals experience in Portugal. This event gave student competitors in Europe opportunities to compete at high levels across country borders and have a professional experience, something they hadn’t had before.
“That’s another reason the program was created, is to create this consistent structure and this consistent layer of support anywhere in the world and provide opportunities.” he said. “University Esports Masters: an opportunity for students to see this industry for what it is: a truly global industry.”
Getting involved internationally is much more than just the competition. For the students that participated in the UE Masters tournament, it was about adventuring forward into countries they hadn’t been to before, encountering new cultures and living the studio life of a professional athlete.
“The competitive aspect was secondary to them.” Candella said. “What they really talked about was the experience that they had flying to a different country, meeting their colleagues from around the world, eating new foods and listening to new languages. Making new friends outside of their university, outside of their region, outside of their country.”
Any country that has tournament providers is on Twitch Student’s radar for support and active engagement, whether in Latin America, Asia or further through Europe.
As for the UE Masters, the current ongoing project for Candella and Twitch Student, it will grow to include three more countries next year, culminating in nine countries competing against one another collegiately.
One thing is vividly clear about this program and all involved: it's a passion project through and through. The creed that it follows, the experiences it creates and every new educational avenue it explores are rooted in an honest passion from the man who devised it out of his own desire to help better the industry. With each day, each new program or opportunity, you can see the impact all around us.
Want to learn more about Twitch Student? Head over to their Twitter! Also, if you liked this article, be sure to let Julian know! Finally, as always, keep track of our Facebook and Twitter for more updates on Collegiate StarLeague content.