Esports Students Get Inside Look at Major Competition and Facility

A recent trip to Washington, D.C., enabled esports students to tour a cutting-edge esports venue, learn more about a leading esports league, and network with industry professionals. Made possible by an alum, it was an exciting opportunity for Chargers to learn about what goes on behind-the-scenes at a major esports event.

April 13, 2023

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

Students visited the 2K stage.

Kyle Ng ’24 recently traveled to Washington, D.C., with several of his fellow Chargers. The trip was an exciting and unique opportunity for him to not only explore the city, but to immerse himself in the esports industry.

Ng, several of his classmates, and their professors attended NBA 2K competitions and visited a cutting-edge new esports arena in the nation’s capital city. It gave them an inside look at the esports industry, as they enjoyed a behind-the-scenes tour of District E, a flagship esports venue serving the Mid-Atlantic area. Ng says the experience was like nothing he’d ever had before. It both surprised and impressed him.

“What truly surprised me was the unique setup of the athletes and their coaches,” said Ng, an esports and gaming major. “Instead of the usual arrangement where players are set up in a row with both teams separated or facing each other, the athletes are arranged in a circle with their coaches actively watching over their shoulders. The producers told us this setup allowed for trash-talking, which was actively encouraged during the competition. This added to the competitive spirit and made for an exciting and unforgettable experience.”

‘Helped me gain perspective on what I can do once I graduate’

Students met with professionals in the esports industry, including an esports league president.

As part of the experience, students networked, meeting individuals in various roles in the field and learning more about what they do. They interacted with everyone from the esports league president and the live production team, asking questions and learning more about their work.

Hana Cornell ’23 wasn’t yet familiar with the NBA 2K league when she headed to Washington. But, after witnessing the competition firsthand, she gained a new appreciation for it.

“Learning about the work that goes into these events and meeting the people who made it happen made me respect this esport much more, as well as the amount of work that goes into a production of that scale,” said Cornell, an esports and gaming major. “I was also able to network with several people in the field. Learning about their individual journeys helped me gain perspective on what I can do once I graduate, and it was much appreciated and very insightful.”

‘We prioritize our students’ professional development’

David Estevez ’16 and ’18 MBA arranged the exciting opportunity for the students. An associate manager of team marketing and business operations for the National Basketball Association, he says the NBA 2K league team was excited to welcome the students, even spotlighting them on their social media channels.

Students on a behind-the-scenes tour of an esports venue in Washington, D.C.

“I was really excited to get students out to DC to experience the NBA 2K League competition live so they could see all the hard work that goes into putting together a high-level in-person esports competition,” said Estevez. “I hope the students got a better understanding of what goes into running a professional esports league or competition. It’s hard to know what you want to do in life if you’re not aware of all the opportunities out there for your chosen career path, so I hope this opportunity helped them find a role or some facet of the esports business that interests them and becomes something they pursue.”

“Our esports and gaming students gained invaluable industry experience during their visit to the NBA 2K competitions and the brand-new District E venue,” adds Ceyda Mumcu, Ph.D., chair of the University’s Sport Management Department. “We are a student-centric institution, and we have a very engaged alumni base. In everything we do, we prioritize our students’ professional development, and our alumni enjoy extending learning opportunities to our students.”

‘Awesome to have those connections’

Aiden Deshaies ’25 was interviewed by WAMU 88.5 at the event.

Derek Smith ’23 M.S., who has taught as an adjunct faculty member at the University, and Bo Yu, Ph.D., accompanied the students. Dr. Yu was grateful they had the opportunity to network and learn more about the industry – an opportunity that could, he said, inform their own career paths.

“This was an exciting tour for our Chargers, enabling them to connect with industry experts from the NBA 2K League and gain hands-on knowledge about esports event management,” said Dr. Yu. “I hope they will make the most of this opportunity to explore the various career options within the esports industry and utilize what they learned from this trip to shape their own professional paths.”

For Aiden Deshaies ’25, the trip offered learning opportunities that were simultaneously fascinating and exciting. He enjoyed getting to see the venue, and he was amused and intrigued to see the trash-talking between the competitors. He was also excited to get to learn more about the league and how it operates by experiencing it firsthand.

“It was interesting to see how they do things compared to other esports leagues,” said Deshaies, an esports and gaming major. “They did a lot differently, but much of it was also similar, and it was a good mix that really made their league distinct compared to other leagues. I also got to connect with many of the staff at the 2K league, and it is awesome to have those connections.”

Students enjoyed watching the competition.

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