Lero opens Ireland’s first esports research lab

Lero esports
Prof Conor Ryan, Yueying Gong, Dr Mark Campbell

SFI research centre project grows Irish visibility in billion-dollar industry

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29 August 2019 | 0

Irish software research centre, Lero, has opened Ireland’s first esports research lab in its University of Limerick (UL) headquarters. Esports are video games played competitively for spectators, often by professional gamers.

The lab will be based at Lero’s University of Limerick (UL) headquarters, which is a world leading SFI research centre. There, researchers will conduct studies designed to boost esports player’s performances.

“This is a massive growth sector,” said Dr Mark Campbell, director of the Lero esports research lab. “Top professional players can earn millions of dollars per annum. However, unlike other professional sports, there has been very little application of sports science to the participants to date.”

“Our research lab will combine health science and computing to identify what makes a great player. For example, we will work on psychometric software incorporating eye tracking and brain imaging to measure the neural, cognitive and physical attributes of the most effective players.”

In esports, research has shown that female players can compete on equal terms with their male counterparts, he added. “While playing video games does have a male image there is no physical benefit for either sex unlike many traditional sports such as rugby. In esports, although there are far fewer female players, competitions are not organised by gender, so men and women compete against each other on equal terms.”

Earning potential

Esports show significant earning potential. At last month’s Fortnite World Cup, US teenager Kyle ‘Bugha’ Giersdorf, 16, won $3 million (€2.7 million). Joshua Juliana, 17 from Dublin took home $50,000 (€45,000) from the same event. Ireland’s top esports player, Jordan Crowley earned near $250,000 (€226,000) in 2018.

And its growing. Revenues of global esports will reach €993 million in 2019, a year-on-year growth of 26.7% according to analytics company Newzoo. The total global esports audience will see 15% year-on-year growth in 2019 and reach an audience of 453.8 million.

“Esports represent a rapidly growing billion-dollar global industry which is using innovation to push the boundaries of technology,” commented Professor Mark Ferguson, director general of Science Foundation Ireland and chief scientific adviser to the Government of Ireland. “This new Lero SFI Research Centre lab will help bring about greater levels of international visibility to the games industry, solidifying expertise across Irish third level institutions and industry.”

Prof Conor Ryan, Lero’s software lead at UL added: “We will work with both amateur and professional players. The research will include detailed monitoring of numerous functions from mouse grip to players’ peripheral vision and aural range. The findings will be of benefit to players, managers and sponsors of professional esports teams and could contribute to the design of future computer peripherals.”

The team has already conducted initial research at international events, analysing players of some of the most popular esports games.

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