StarCraft 101: Studying eSports at university

Where can you take RTS classes at university and what can they teach you?
Written by Philippa Warr
4 min readPublished on
StarCraft II
StarCraft II
Fancy studying video games for your degree? Better get your application in order then: Intro to StarCraft is a New York University course which seeks to teach better StarCraft play, an understanding of the world of eSports and an appreciation of how improving at StarCraft can improve your broader business skills.
But hang on a second – why are eSports working their way into universities? eSports is a developing industry with companies and fan communities investing vast amounts of time and money and influencing the directions in which it can grow. Part of that development includes passing information and experience down to others and ensuring subsequent players, managers, casters and so on can benefit from the experience of others. That can come via Twitch streaming or YouTube tutorials, but there's also a chance that traditional teaching channels like universities and colleges will play a part in passing on eSports knowledge. The NYU course offers one such example, but we've added another four so you can see what's been done before.

New York University

Confirmed by an NYU student, New York University is running a class during its fall 2014 semester called Intro to Starcraft. The course is set to cover such things as "optimising early gameplay, mastering tactical maneuvers and strategies, and real-time strategic decision making." But it's not just about mastering Starcraft. The course aims to give an understanding of how eSports as a whole is developing, as well as how multiplayer games like StarCraft are designed. Lastly, it emphasises how useful a lot of the skills involved in being a gaming pro are for everyday life. Basically, even if you're not on the course, if anyone questions the amount of time you spend fighting Zerg, just point out that it's all part of your attempt to learn mental discipline and critical thinking while understanding and manipulating complex systems in real time.

DePauw University

In 2010, DePauw University in Indiana offered a StarCraft course as part of its Winter Term – a month-long event where courses outside the usual remit of the university can run. Titled 'StarCraft and eSports: The Rise of Competitive Videogaming', the course aimed to explore both the potential of eSports and the specifics of the StarCraft scene. "[StarCraft] showcases brilliantly the vast potential of the fledgling eSports industry. StarCraft II, having already garnered a massive following despite having just hit shelves late this past August, is likely to represent the future of eSports."

College of Arts, Seoul

Even earlier than De Pauw's course came the announcement that former StarCraft pro Kang 'Nal_rA' Min was to become an eSports teacher at Seoul's College of Arts. Having retired in 2008 he went on to cast matches for subscription television station MBC Game before announcing he would be teaching students at the college about the business and theory of eSports, as well as snippets of tactical information to improve their individual play.

University of Florida

As part of its Fall 2010 semester the University of Florida offered up 21st Century Skills in StarCraft. The online-only course was set up to look at critical thinking, problem solving, resource management, and adaptive decision making all through the lens of StarCraft. "It does not teach about StarCraft, but rather aims to utilize the game and the complex situations that arise within it to present and develop the important skills professionals will undoubtedly need in the 21st Century workplace."

UC Berkeley

In 2009 UC Berkeley offered Game Theory With Applications To Starcraft. As with the De Pauw course, this sat slightly apart from the traditional curriculum and was taught by students rather than faculty staff. As per the course listing the Starcraft class was worth two credits to students taking part and covered off game analysis as well as strategic tips. "There will be lectures on various aspects of the game, from the viewpoint of pure theory to the more computational aspects of how exactly battles are conducted. Calculus and Differential Equations are highly recommended for full understanding of the course."
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