Preparing Students for Careers in the Esport Industry

Engaging with Role-Play as a Pedagogical Experiential Learning Tool




role play, esports, engaged learning


Role-play is an active learning tool that increases the involvement, motivation, and responsibility of students through their immersion in the very industry for which they are learning and preparing and has been used in a wide range of settings, including education, business, and entertainment, to facilitate education, problem-solving, and personal growth. As such, role-play was implemented in an Introduction to Esport course to help students better understand and experience the real-life planning, obligations, and execution of the many roles and responsibilities necessary to host and stream an esport competition. In this manuscript, we offer an overview of student experiences and provide lessons learned to help enhance future role-playing and experiential learning opportunities in the esport space. Results from this project demonstrated that role-play can be an effective pedagogical tool, affording students with opportunities to enhance their knowledge and familiarity with the esport industry, learn and practice industry-specific skills, and experience a real-time event competition requiring them to apply what they learned in the classroom. 

Author Biographies

Trevor Bopp, The University of Alabama

Trevor Bopp, PhD, is an assistant professor in the Department of Human Nutrition and Hospitality Management at the University of Alabama. His research focuses on the influence of race and racial identity on access, opportunities, and experiences in sport.

Kostas Karadakis, Southern New Hampshire University

Kostas Karadakis, PhD, is a professor in the Department of Sport Management & Athletic Administration at Southern New Hampshire University. His research interests include sport tourism, sport event impacts, and esport experiences.


Alkin, M.C. & Christie, C.A. (2002). The use of role-play in teaching evaluation. American Journal of Evaluation, 23(2), 209–218.

Braun, V., Clarke, V. & Weate, P. (2016). Using thematic analysis in sport and exercise research. In B. Smith & A. C. Sparkes (Eds.), Routledge handbook of qualitative research in sport and exercise (pp. 191-205). Routledge.

Chang, B. (2019). Reflection in learning. Online Learning, 23(1), 95-110. https://doi/10.24059/olj.v23i1.1447

Cranmer, E.E., Han, D. I. D., van Gisbergen, M. & Jung, T. (2021). Esports matrix: structuring the esports research agenda. Computers in Human Behavior, 117(Apr): 106671.

Hamari, J. & Sjoblom, M. (2017). What is esports and why do people watch it? Internet Research, 27 (2), 211-232.

Hedlund, D., Fried, G. & Smith, R. (Eds.). (2021). Esports business management. Human Kinetics Publishers.

Hoeber, L. (2023). “The best teacher is also a student”: Improving qualitative research literacy by learning from my mistakes. Journal of Sport Management, 37(3), 157-167.

Jenny, S., Manning, R. D., Keiper, M. C. & Olrich, T. W. (2017). Virtual(ly) athletes: where esports fit within the definition of “sport”. Quest, 69(1), 1–18.

Jenny, S. E., Keiper, M. C., Taylor, B. J., Williams, D. P., Gawrysiak, J., Manning, R. D. & Tutka, P. M. (2018). eSports venues: A new sport business opportunity. Journal of Applied Sport Management, 10(1), 8.

Jenny, S. E., Gawrysiak, J. & Besombes, N. (2021). An inventory and analysis of global higher education esports academic programming and curricula. International Journal of Esports.

Karadakis, K. (2022). Streaming in Esports: Lessons Learned from Student Reflection Journals. Sport Management Education Journal, 1(aop), 1-3.

Karadakis, K. & Painchaud, M. (2022). Esport Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities: Perspectives from Subject Matter Experts. Athens Journal of Sports, 9(2), 79-100.

Kolb, D. A. (1984). Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development. Prentice Hall.

Li, R. (2017). Good luck have fun: The rise of eSports. Simon and Schuster.

Lizzio, A. & Wilson, K. (2004). Action Learning in Higher Education: An investigation of its potential to develop professional capability. Studies in Higher Education, 29(4), 469–488.

Murray, J., Pricce, E. B. & Decker, S. (2021). The mission value of collegiate esports. The Sport Journal, 22.

National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE; (2023). ABOUT. Retrieved from (accessed May 3rd, 2023).

Newzoo (2022). Newzoo’s Global Esports & Live Streaming Market Report 2022. Online) Available online at: (accessed May 3rd, 2023).

Nilsson, B. & Waldemarson, A-K. (1988). Rollspel I teori och praktik. Lund: Studentlitteratur.

Odio, M. & Kerwin, S. (2016). Internship characteristics, critical events, and intent to enter the vocation. Sport Management Education Journal, 10(2), 103-114.

Peterson, L. (2018). Why aren’t more Black kids going pro in esports?. The Undefeated. Retrieved from

Rao, D. & Stupans, I. (2012). Exploring the potential of role-play in higher education: Development of a typology and teacher guidelines. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 49(4), 427–436.

Roland, L. (2016). Good luck have fun: The rise of Esports. Skyhorse Publishing. New York, NY: Skyhorse Publishing.

Scott, M. J., Summerley, R., Besombes, N., Connolly, C., Gawrysiak, J., Halevi, T., Jenny, S., Miljanovic, M., Stange, M., Taipalus, T., & Williams, J. P. (2021). Foundations for esports curricula in higher education. In Proceedings of the 2021 Working Group Reports on Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education (pp. 27-55).

Segal, D. (2014). Behind League of Legends, E-Sports’s main attraction. New York Times, 10.

Sogunro, O. A. (2004). Efficacy of role-playing pedagogy in training leaders: Some reflections. Journal of Management Development, 23(4), 355–371.

Venero, B. (2020). Why the rise of esports is good for schools, students and even employers. Forbes.

Westrup, U., & Planander, A. (2012). Role-play as a pedagogical method to prepare students for practice: The students’ voice. Högre utbildning, 3(3), 199-210.

Witkowski, E. (2012). On the digital playing field: How we “do sport” with networked computer games. Games and Culture, 7(5), 349–374.

Yardley-Matwiejczuk, K.M. (1997). Role-play. Theory & practice. London: Sage.