Robert Eskra, Former Lawyer, Now Wilkes University Esports ManagerJan 08, 2024
NASEF’s intern Benjamin Bomberger is interested in learning how esports programs are run at various colleges. Ben talked with Robert Eskra to hear how he got into esports and what strides he is making to promote esports at Wilkes University in Pennsylvania. Here’s the summary of their conversation.
What is your role within Wilkes University?
My official title at Wilkes is Esports Manager; it is an all-encompassing role because the program is so new. I am the director, recruiter, coach and even a social media manager. Once the program has reached a higher level of growth, eventually people will be hired for those positions.
How did you get involved in esports; talk a little bit about your journey.
I started my professional career as an attorney. Went to law school, thought I was going to be doing that for the rest of my life, but it wasn’t really making me feel satisfied. I looked for a new job about two years out of school and started teaching at Lackawanna College in Pennsylvania. I was teaching political science, philosophy and a bunch of other stuff. Two years into that, Lackawanna decided they wanted to start an esports program. I applied to be the Head Coach; I had a really strong interview and was hired! Now, I was getting paid to design a program that was based around competitive gaming which I loved. I got to do a bunch of traveling like going to NACE in Atlanta, visiting Harrisburg University in Pennsylvania to see what their program looked like, going to Vegas for an esports conference–there was just so much going on. I coached for about four to five years, and even after I left that position, I would still volunteer from time to time.
In 2023 I started looking for another job, and I saw an ad for Wilkes University esports manager. I interviewed with my current boss who is the chair of the Integrative Media Department at Wilkes, the Dean, and the head of IT. I shared my ideas about the program and was hired! I’ve been working extremely hard and now we have 46 students in the club.
What esports-related programs does Wilkes have?
We are launching and developing the program all at the same time. There is a prolific games and media club on campus. The members are crucial in advocating for the program of esports. The long term goal is to build a broad program that offers internships, leadership opportunities, experiential learning, opportunity to create and experiment. The idea is that when they graduate, they walk away with that experience/portfolio that can help them get a job. This is doing a degree in something else but you attach gaming to it because the industry is so broad, you can do anything with this program.
Why is education in esports important?
The gaming industry is so broad, with many paths to pursue. For someone searching for a job, it can be confusing to find a specific path. We help students connect their interests to their career path. Any field that you are interested in, you can attach it to gaming. For example, I could be an accountant and work for a gaming company.
The more we open up the game industry the more it will be understood by the broader public. We can demonstrate that games like Valorant or Rainbow Six Siege, which on their face look violent, are no different than TV, movies, arts, etc. The more that people accept this hobby and passion, the more opportunities there will be for young people who are passionate about video games. They shouldn’t feel like they need to take a “safe” degree, they can truly pursue what they’re passionate about in a number of ways because there are so many different options within the esports ecosystem.. Maybe a student wants to be a writer or a lawyer, they could do that with gaming. The possibilities are endless.
Do you have any advice for those wanting to start an esports program?
Just do it. I was handed a shell of a program and have been building it ever since. I created a vision of what the program can become, and I am slowly taking the steps to do it. First, you just need bodies in the room, then you need people to start streaming your matches, and getting the production side of esports ready. This can lead to long term projects, partnerships etc. Don’t try to do everything all at once, just try to take one aspect of it, get it healthy and move on to the next one. For high schools, get a bunch of kids who are interested in competing and get them practicing. Try to get the physical space, show the administration that this is worth taking a look at, and go from there. The great thing is, there is plenty of support out there for those that want to start a program, such as some of NASEF’s tools, where you can bring play and learning together. Go step by step.