Janus Pitkänen is the Program Coordinator of Esports Business at Kajaani University of Applied Sciences. His expertise in esports runs deep, and he has a sound grasp of the competitive video gaming ecosystem, allowing him to establish himself as a knowledgeable individual and asset to the institution he represents.
Janus is similarly well-versed in high school esports, a topic he has agreed to discuss with us, sharing his own observations and experience in the matter.
Q: Janus, college, and even high-school esports is well-developed in the United States, and it seems to be more than just a fad. Can you walk us through your observations about high school esports and their role in education?
Janus: To clarify in the beginning, as I am established in Finland, my observation is that our school system with the United States tends to differ quite a lot. As a university of applied sciences teacher, I do not have a very good grasp of collegiate-level esports. As a note, tertiary-level educational institutes, such as universities and universities of applied sciences, do not translate into high school level in Finland, but rather as universities.
“In Finland, I feel like giving room for the players to grow is already a good start, but for the teaching and coaching staff, I feel like there is a bit of a lack of expertise.”Janus Pitkänen, Program Coordinator of Esports Business at Kajaani University of Applied Sciences
What I have perceived is, however, a rise of Finnish secondary level schools’ interest in esports and application to course syllabuses. Upper secondary level schools and vocational schools are something that is close to what educational institutes are called colleges in the USA.
I feel like secondary level education relates more to gaming itself and tends to support gaming as a hobby, potentially to become a professional esports athlete. This is even more true in the States as in Finland. In Finland, I feel like giving room for the players to grow is already a good start, but for the teaching and coaching staff, I feel like there is a bit of a lack of expertise.
What this means is that usually, an otherwise good coach may not have good in-game related expertise, whereas a good in-game coach may not know how to be a “life coach.”
Q: Do you think that esports gaming can be a path to a sustainable and meaningful career based on your experience as a program coordinator at KAMK?
Janus: The way I currently see it, yes, it can be a path to a sustainable and meaningful career, but the path is very narrow and a very stressful one. At KAMK, we are not training players but rather business specialists to become professionals in the esports field and work on other professions rather than the gaming one, e.g., marketing, coaching, and management.
“The way I currently see it, yes, it can be a path to a sustainable and meaningful career, but the path is very narrow and a very stressful one.”Janus Pitkänen, Program Coordinator of Esports Business at Kajaani University of Applied Sciences
A gaming career in itself is something to seek after; however, you should always have a plan B if, for whatever reason, you will not make it into top-level and thus a gamer earning income. As a professional gamer or an aspiring one, it is very important to take care of your health and make sure gaming does not become too addictive.
Q: What do you think are the biggest challenges to translate one’s love for esports to real-world professions? Do you think “gamers” have no time for academia, or is this myth?
Janus: For a gamer to become an income gamer – I feel like sometimes the challenge for the players in the mindset that the more you play, the better you will become. While this holds true to some extent, too much is always too much. If you do something too much, it can become counter-productive.
One of the biggest challenges is also that there are so many aspiring gamers and people who want to work in esports, not only as gamers. You really need to somehow show what you have got and impress someone who works in the industry. Also, for people wanting to work in the industry (especially in esports teams), the fact is that esports companies are lacking sustainable business models – it is hard to build on something that is not long-term.
Q: Looking at high school esports, can you give examples of how having competitive video games in learning has helped the process?
Janus: I am not sure if video games for us have helped in learning, but the passion for esports brings people together. For example, our esports students are some of the most highly motivated students. Some of them play a lot, whereas some of them do not play as much. Indirectly, I would say that in our community, the passion for esports creates motivation for studies, and the motivation helps in learning.
Q: Are there specific esports titles that do not have a place in high school learning and subsequent competitions as they are too steep to learn and therefore not really a viable option?
Janus: I do not think it is the title that defines a game being a viable option or not. I think it is the popularity of the game (regionally) that dictates more and perhaps also the ecosystem of a specific title. Also, no game is too steep to learn if you have a competent teacher or a coach.