When most people think of the future of collegiate esports, they think scholarships and varsity teams, the way traditional collegiate sports work. But Asia Pacific University in Malaysia wants to take it a step further.
They want to give you a certificate in esports.
Last month, APU and eSports Malaysia launched the APU eSports Academy, a university program that will allow students to get a certificate in League of Legends, Dota 2, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive or FIFA 17. The classes will have beginner, intermediate and advanced levels, and will each be taught over the course of 12 weeks, with four hours of classes per week.
The program is the culmination of several gaming and esports-related efforts APU has undertaken over the past few years, and exists partly in thanks to the APU esports club's work. Zierasmayu Binti Abd Rahman, the advisor for the APU esports club, says that the push for a proper esports program started when the university and the club hosted tournaments that offered partial scholarships.
"We hosted the national Grand Finals for League of Legends and the national finals for FIFA Online, all this was an eye-opener for us," she told theScore esports. "From there, we saw feedback from students, staff and from parents, so we see the good side of embracing esports, basically. We wanted to play our role an taking it another step higher and felt we should go for an academy."
APU already offers degrees in competitive game development, so adding some esports classes made a lot of sense for the university. eSports Malaysia, an arm of the Malaysia Sports Commissioner, presented the idea to APU, and admissions are already open, though the esports classes won't begin until May, according to APU's website. The classes themselves will be low on theory and lectures, instead focusing on the practical skills it actually takes to play the game you chose to study. Classes will be between 30-40 people, though Rahman notes that the program has gotten an "overwhelming" amount of applicants.
Rahman says the applicants vary in age and background, but many are already students in the game design program who are interested in pursuing other interests. The most important thing for APU though is that it always feels like a university course, even if you are practicing last-hitting.
"We provide a venue where you can train with coaches and other players who have the same intentions — to be a better player," Rahman says. "Because we set it as an academy, we can't just focus on pro players, we started from the grassroots. We train from beginner level, three levels in all, and we have plans after the advanced levels to keep pushing these talents. We understand that even though you go through all these three levels, it's still too early for you to actually claim that you are a pro gamer, but at least we took the initial steps to basically prepare them with necessary knowledge."
Rahman notes that the filtering process for selecting students could also make things easier for scouts looking for young players in the classes. Coaches will be teaching the courses for the most part, many of whom are professionals in the Malaysian scene, and Rahman says that the school could be open to bringing on international players as lecturers or coaches in the future.
With that in mind, international students looking to study esports at APU won't be able to get a visa just yet, but if they apply for the game development program, they can take the esports classes over the weekend. But that's in the future. Right now, APU is focused on setting up the program and making sure it grows into something that can provide a potential future for students. Rahman also says APU is working on getting the program recognized by the Malaysian ministry of human resources so it can give graduates a national occupational skills standard, which would prove that that they are considered to have the the competency expected for a skilled employee in Malaysia.
"We're going to look at feedback from the industry, from the coaches, we are also working with getting feedback from developers as well, for Dota 2 and League of Legends as to how we should do it," Rahman said. "It's about structuring it into an academic environment, how do we develop it from level to level, but in terms of the game knowledge itself, we work with the coaches and industry players themselves."
Daniel Rosen is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.