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Game On At UL: Esports Research Lab Opens

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By: Mike Finnerty

Ireland’s first-ever Esports research lab has opened at the University of Limerick.

Lero, a cutting-edge Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) research centre, will conduct studies to boost the performance of international standard amateur and professional Esports players.

It is hoped that UL will become the proving ground for Ireland’s next Esports superstar.

Esports, or competitive video gaming, has exploded in recent years.

Dubbed ‘the national sport of South Korea‘, Esports has staked a legitimate claim to becoming one of the world’s most-viewed and popular sports, and there are signs that Esports might be included as a category at the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Online focused games such as Fortnite, Overwatch, Rocket League and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive all have World Championships, with the Fortnite World Championship seeing the winner, 16-year-old Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf, take home a cool $3 million Dollar prize for winning the competition.

Dublin student Joshua Juliano, 17, took home $50,000 or just over €45,000 for his efforts in the same competition.

Image result for fortnite world cup finals
The 2019 Fortnite World Cup Finals

READ: Ivan Smyth’s interview with UL’s Counter-Strike Global Offensive star Desmond O’Kelly de Gallagh et Tycooly.

Revenues from Esports is projected to hit $1.1 billion Dollars in 2019, with analytics company NewZoo saying that the total global Esports audience in 2019 will be over 450 million people.

For comparison, this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, held in Israel, drew 182 million viewers.

“This is a massive growth sector. Top professional players can earn millions of dollars per annum. 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 Esports 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.”

He added 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 Esports, although there are far fewer female players, competitions are not organised by gender, so men and women compete against each other on equal terms.”

“Esports 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 and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland. “This new 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.”

Prof. Conor Ryan, Lero researcher at UL added, “We will work with both amateur and professional players. The research will include detailed monitoring of numerous functions from mouse grip to players’ peripheral vision and aural range. The findings will be of benefit to players, managers and sponsors of professional Esports teams and could contribute to the design of future computer peripherals.”
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