Venezuelan university trains next generation of professional gamers
Mary Triny Mena
Video game competitions are big business around the world, and many countries including Venezuela are eager to tap into the lucrative industry.
One university in Caracas has now launched a first-of-its-kind E-Sports Academy to train the next generation of professional players.
The Andres Bello Catholic University opened the E-Sports Academy in July, offering courses and workshops for amateurs and experts to learn and put their skills into practice.
20-year-old Valentina Martinez is a management student and a gamer who wants to improve her skills.
"You need a lot of abilities to play video games," says Martínez. "There are video games that require many things - skills that not everybody has and could be developed professionally."
The training focuses on three areas: gaming, professional gaming and game- based learning.
The journey to professional gaming hasn't been easy in Venezuela, a country often hit with connectivity issues and power outages.
Professor Juan Sánchez, who is the Director of the E-Sports Academy, says the first priority is to provide quality training and change the mind-set of students towards the video game industry.
"We need high-speed internet, we need stable electricity and we need youngsters to understand that this is a profession," explains Sánchez. "Meaning it is not only recreation or leisure, but also they need to be prepared, trained and be disciplined."
About 3,000 Venezuelans compete professionally on E-Sports. Gamers can earn up to 200 U.S. dollars per month. In Venezuela, the monthly minimum wage is about 22 dollars.
Students train on high-end technology, like top-of-the-line consoles and professional computers and chairs specifically designed for gamers.
But the academy also teaches strategy. Participants learn how to read their opponent´s movements, so they can react quickly and accurately - life skills they can use outside of the world of video games.
The academy is also being used as part of traditional courses within the campus. Law and management students use the games to learn about everything from negotiation, to survival and cooperation.
Law professor Marcos Carrillo uses the video game Terrania in his classes. In a recent lecture he told his students, "We are going to compare how we can survive better, by competing, or cooperating. We will see the advantages and disadvantages of competing and cooperating, and how we set up a negotiation process through the game by competing or cooperating."
Gamers like 18-year-old Romer Duque spend countless hours practicing. He's a beginner, but as a native digital user, he says video games are changing the employment landscape.
"I believe that little by little, technology and globalization have had great impacts in the community, especially among young people, and it could be a profitable activity."
Anyone over 14-years-old, even if they're a professional gamer- is welcome to attend.
The academy is teaching Venezuelan gamers that talent and knowledge are key steps to take the game to the next level.