Limerick centre to play key role in e-sports industry

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Jessica Mangione, Niall Ramsbottom, Dr Adam Toth, Yueying Gong and Dr Mark Campbell at the Lero research lab. Photo: Diarmuid Greene

A UNIVERSITY of Limerick-based software research centre has opened Ireland’s first e-sports research lab.

Researchers at the Lero centre in UL will conduct studies to boost the performance of international amateur and professional e-sports players.

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“This is a massive growth sector. Top professional players can earn millions of dollars a year. However, unlike other professional sports, there has been very little application of sports science to the participants to date,” said Dr Mark Campbell, director of the Lero e-sports research lab.

“Our research lab will combine health science and computing to identify what makes a great player. For example, we will work on psychometric software incorporating eye tracking and brain imaging to measure the neural, cognitive and physical attributes of the most effective players.”

Dr Campbell went onto say that research has shown that this is a sport in which female players can compete on equal terms with their male counterparts.

“While playing video games does have a male image there is no physical benefit for either sex unlike many traditional sports such as rugby. In e-sports, although there are far fewer female players, competitions are not organised by gender, so men and women compete against each other on equal terms.”

The earnings potential of e-sports was highlighted by last month’s Fortnite World Cup in New York where US teenager Kyle ‘Bugha’ Giersdorf (16) won $3 million. Dublin teenager Joshua Juliano (17) took home $50,000 from the same event.

Prize money in 2018 exceeded $160 million with $25 million on offer for one event. Ireland’s top player, Jordan Crowley earned almost $250,000 in 2018 according to the e-sports earnings website.

Revenues of global e-sports, or competitive video games played for spectators, will grow to $1.1 billion this year, according to analytics company Newzoo while the global e-sports audience will grow to 453.8 million.

“E-sports represent a rapidly growing billion-dollar global industry which is using innovation to push the boundaries of technology,” commented Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland.

“The Lero SFI Research Centre lab will help bring about greater levels of international visibility to the games industry, solidifying expertise across Irish third level institutions and industry,” he said.

Lero has already conducted initial research at international events analysing players of the most popular e-sports games including ‘Counter-Strike: Global Offensive’ and ‘League of Legends’.