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WVU hosts two-day Esports gaming symposium and master class

David Chen
David Chen

Marc Williams 
Dr. Marc Williams

Ashley DeWalt 
Ashley DeWalt

Neil Duffy 
Neil Duffy

West Virginia University hosted a two-day event designed to expose students to career opportunities in Esports, a gaming phenomenon that has become a billion-dollar global industry.

The Esports Symposium and Master Class held Thursday and Friday (March 21 and 22) offered a general introduction to Esports, organized, multiplayer video game competitions. The events were presented by WVU alumnus Marc Williams and Ashley DeWalt, cofounders of WD | Esports + Entertainment. 

The symposium featured industry trailblazers including David Chen, co-owner of FaZe Clan, the largest Esports team in the world; Neil Duffy, chief commercial office for Collegiate Starleague; and DeWalt and Williams, cofounders of one of the first Esports business degree specializations in the country at St. Peter’s University in Jersey City, New Jersey. 

“Esports is a phenomenon that crosses disciplinary boundaries,” said, Maryanne Reed, Dean of the Reed College of Media. “It is poised to have a huge impact on the sports, business and media industries, so it is impossible for universities to ignore. I’m pleased that WVU is getting in on the ground floor.” 

Friday’s Esports Master Class was a one-day, six-hour workshop that addressed the history, ecosystem, trends, career paths and cultural impact of the Esports industry. Twenty students from diverse disciplines in the Reed College of Media, the John Chambers College of Business and Economics, the College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences and the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources were selected to participate through a competitive application process.

Led by Williams and DeWalt, the class began with a presentation on the history of gaming and Esports in education. Students learned about trends in marketing, sponsorships and advertising before breaking into groups. Each group was given a $1 million budget to develop an Esports marketing campaign. They made presentations to a panel of judges at the end of the workshop.

The winning team included Carter Newman (Economics), Vinny Powell (Strategic Communications), Jose Prado (Industrial Engineering), Anthony Rojas (Marketing) and Matt Torres (Sports Management). WD | Esports + Entertainment awarded them an all-expense paid trip to the Collegiate Starleague Grand Finals in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The students will have a VIP experience with behind-the-scenes tours of production and access to meet and greets with players and teams.  

“To our advantage, our team was well-rounded with a variety of skills,” said Powell. “Most of us were from different colleges and majors. As a result, each of us provided unique insights which helped our presentation succeed.”

“We were really impressed by their presentation, but also their thoughtfulness and understanding of the Esports ecosystem and how to pitch sponsors a big event like this,” said Williams. “They did a tremendous job presenting the information to us in a short period of time.”

Chen and Duffy also worked with students during the Master Class portion. The four presenters are not only innovators in the Esports industry, but are also experts in business, sports and media.

"WD | Esports + Entertainment is thrilled to partner with WVU," said Williams. "The Esports industry is growing at a rate of 40% a year and expected to reach $2 billion by 2020 and a global audience of 580 million. This kind of growth creates demand for professionals with the right mix of education, experience and passion for the industry. We want WVU students to be among the most competitive professionals competing for these jobs currently and the near future."

Chen has more than 10 years of experience with big-four firm Deloitte. In 2017, he joined SparkleCOIN, which became the first cryptocurrency with real-world applications. He is on the Board of Directors and is part owner of Faze Clan, which has the largest social media following of all Esports companies with more than 14 million followers.

DeWalt is a leading brand strategist, marketing consultant, lecturer, entrepreneur and sports tech investor. Previously he was the founder and managing principal of LVRG Sports, a leading brand management and marketing consultancy. His marketing campaigns have been featured in leading media outlets including Forbes, ESPN, Fox Sports and CBS Sports and he has consulted for several famous athletes and brands.

Duffy is the Chief Commercial Officer for Collegiate Starleague, the world’s largest collegiate Esports tournament and league provider. It is represented on 1,600 campuses with more than 40,000 student gamers competing for scholarships in 12 games across PC, console and mobile.

Williams has worked for three of the largest sports brands in the world including Champs Sports, Footaction and Reebok, and his insights have been featured in several media outlets including CBS Evening News, BBC, Billboard Magazine, AdWeek and USA Today. He holds a Masters in Sports Management from the University of Massachusetts and a Doctorate in Education from WVU.