Published 26 June 2017

ESL and University of York Announce World-First Collaboration

ESL UoY Logos

London 27th June 2017: ESL, the world’s largest esports company, and the University of York, one of the top universities in the UK and a member of the Russell Group, are today announcing a world-first collaboration to make industry-aligned teaching and research for esports a reality.

This unique partnership between the two organisations will allow the University of York to pioneer UK-based teaching and research tailored to a rapidly evolving esports industry. The collaboration includes Digital Creativity Labs, an £18 million EPSRC/AHRC/Innovate UK-funded research initiative focusing on the convergence of digital games and interactive media and one of the biggest games research labs in the world; the University of York's Department of Theatre, Film and Television, offering one of the top Film and TV Production degrees in the country and a unique highly interdisciplinary degree in Interactive Media; and the Department of Computer Science, one of the highest ranked in the UK.

The collaboration has three key aims:

  • Teaching - ESL will hold regular masterclasses with University of York students, including workshops and taster days. The University of York (UoY) is committed to aligning its teaching offerings with the needs of the industry, while also offering BSc & MSc dissertations on esports. ESL and UoY are co-designing an elective module on esports content production as a third year, credit-bearing module, aiming to launch Autumn 2018.
  • Research - Alongside a substantial investment by DC Labs in research into future innovations in the esports industry, the collaboration will see PhD internships take place through the Intelligent Games and Game Intelligence (IGGI) PhD programme and Digital Creativity Labs. Pioneering esports research already explored by DC Labs investigates areas including AI, human-computer interaction, interactive storytelling, data visualisation, game analytics, behavioural psychology and more.
  • Careers - ESL internships will provide hands-on experience for outstanding undergraduate students, while industry placements will be available for selected PhD students.

Esports – the competitive playing of video games online – is growing rapidly. In 2016 the esports industry generated over $493m in revenue, and is projected to grow into $1.5bn dollar industry over the next two years. Over 320m people worldwide watched esports competitions or played games competitively in 2016. In the UK alone there are 3.1 million esports viewers spanning a wide demographic – 21% of these, for example, are women aged between 21 and 35.  Recognising the potential of esports, UK Interactive Entertainment (Ukie) has highlighted the importance of growing the UK as an esports hub, including the need to develop UK-based, highly skilled talent and to foster technological innovation.

“We’re incredibly excited to be entering into a partnership with the University of York to help develop fresh new esports talent,” said James Dean, Managing Director of ESL UK. “We’ve always been committed to creating opportunities for more people to enter the industry and now, with the help of the University of York, we’re looking forward to being able to help make sure the future is even brighter and better than it is now.”

“High growth rates have seen games overtake film in terms of market size. Esports shows similarly spectacular growth. Our collaboration with ESL provides us with an exceptional opportunity to pioneer highly relevant, impact-driven research in this area”, said Peter Cowling, Director of the Digital Creativity Labs at York and Professor of Computer Science. “Esports lies at the convergence of two of our academic programmes,  Film and TV Production and Interactive Media”, adds Professor Andrew Higson, Head of the Department of Theatre, Film and TV at the University of York. “Partnering with ESL is an exceptional opportunity for us to develop teaching about esports and career paths for our students in this rapidly growing industry.”

About ESL

ESL, a part of the international digital entertainment group MTG, is the world's largest esports company, leading the industry across the most popular video games with numerous online and offline competitions. It operates high profile, branded international and national leagues and tournaments such as the Intel® Extreme Masters, ESL One, ESL National Championships and other top tier stadium-size events, as well as grassroots amateur cups, leagues and matchmaking systems. ESL covers a broad field of services in gaming technology, event management, advertising and television production, fully catering to the needs of the esports ecosystem. With offices in North America, Germany, Russia, France, Poland, Spain, China, and partners in many other countries, it has a truly global footprint (

About the University of York

The University of York is a high-performing Russell Group university committed to strengthening its position as one of the world's premier institutions for inspirational and life-changing research. York's focus on academic excellence has resulted in a strong reputation across the globe. In the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2017 York was 31st in the world for Arts and Humanities, 77th for Social Sciences, 79th for Life Sciences, and 28th in the league table of the world’s most international universities. In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework, York ranked 10th out of 155 UK universities for the impact of its research.  York places equal emphasis on research and teaching. Students in every department - both undergraduate and postgraduate - are taught and advised by leaders in their field. York is home to over 16,000 students from more than 150 countries, ranking third in the Russell Group for excellent on ‘Teaching on my course’ in the National Students’ Survey 2016. For more information, please visit

Image © ESL/Helena Kristiansson