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Academic journalism of esports research – Aaron Koshy

Aaron Koshy
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<v ->Hello. And welcome back to the t-chat on e-sports.</v> I’m joined by Dr. Aaron Koshy, an academic cardiologist with interests in heart failure, medical devices, and notably e-sports. Let’s press start. So Aaron, your background was in medicine. So I’m curious, what’s your connection with e-sports? <v ->I really started as an enthusiast.</v> I played a few of the titles myself when I had more time on my hands and I just found it really fun. And because the learning curve, you can just end up spending A load of time and really enjoying it.
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And because of I’ve had a long interest in research, I started reading into the existing research in e-sports and found there wasn’t a lot of it, And what is floating around at the time was quite variable in quality. So I found that really strange because I know there’s a lot of good research going on, but I, when I was reading some of the research, it seemed to me that it either wasn’t finessed very well or it didn’t really go through the standard critical appraisal processes that are there in most peer review journals. So I just started getting more interested in e-sports research and collaborating with other researchers getting involved in the research myself.
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And that really just sprung on the concept of working more in the academic side of e-sports as well. <v ->Yeah,</v> that’s really interesting because in the process of working on this, we’ve also done a lot of research on e-sports and it’s interesting, and one incredibly valuable, but to have the-this journal, I kind of want to hear more about the process of actually creating an academic journal from scratch for one, and for two, one on this topic that like you mentioned, had desperate researchers from all different areas and wasn’t really, like, established. <v ->Yeah, sure.</v> First of all, the process is really, really long.
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The main thing is getting a lot of people involved to cover different set of skills so that we can work together and try and make it happen. There are a few formal processes, but largely it’s about collaboration. So formally you need the many things involved in an online system, such as a business, a domain registrar, backend hosting services, all the normal stuff you have with websites. But then you’ve got to have a journal software management system that actually can handle the process of peer reviewing articles in both an anonymous and an open fashion. And then the publishing side. And that generally is done by third party companies, which is why you’ll often see quite extortionate fees associated with submitting research.
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So we try to do as much as we could in-house and then we found open source software that we could hybridize with our existing system so that we don’t have pass on these quite high costs to potential academics and other individuals interested in submitting research to our journal. So we’re pretty competitive in that regard. The reason why I think we were really keen on starting the international of e-sports is really the point that I mentioned earlier, which is there’s increasing amounts of research going on in e-sports. Lots of people around the world are getting interested in both in terms of viewership and playing the games obviously, and also then doing some research as well.
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But there wasn’t as much publication of the research. And most importantly, to the standard that would be acceptable in other domains like medicine, for example. And I think what was happening was probably the people that were submitting the research in e-sports were potentially more accredited and more knowledgeable than the critique, Sorry, the experts in the journals pre our journal that were reviewing the article, if that makes sense. But when you’ve got an expert that’s more knowledgeable than the reviewer, you potentially get some power imbalances where you can’t really critique something that you don’t really know much about.
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And I think that’s what was happening when you do a psychological study on e-sports and you submit it to the Canadian journal of psychology, if there is such a journal, there’s a good chance the reviewers in that journal will not have many experts in e-sports. So whatever they read will potentially not get the critique that should be merited in other areas. So I think that’s what’s happening. And the other factor is the obvious thing about e-sports, definitely five years ago, being very much a buzzword. It was on the hype. It still is obviously, but essentially everyone wants to read about e-sports.
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And you could get away with absolute jargon and pretty low quality material in the publications because every journal as such wanted something in e-sports and they didn’t really mind what. So it was, if you look at research in e-sports, especially a couple years ago, pretty much everyone was saying the same thing, the rise of e-sports, the beginning of e-sports, the explosion of e-sports, and the endless divisive nature, what is e-sports, which we still haven’t gotten an answer to and probably will never get an answer to in a near time. So it was just the same thing repeated in different ways.
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So I think that really frustrated a lot of people that had a genuine interest on the academic side in e-sports and they quickly came and joined us, really. <v ->Yeah. I can definitely see that.</v> There’s some of the things that we’re looking to sort of enlighten throughout this t-chat is some of those basic ideas, but also trying to expand the scope of what e-sports can mean both to players and viewers and our learners who might not be either yet. So it’s really exciting that there is now a more trusted, more verified way to publish research on e-sports.
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And also that there are accurate critiques that are really thinking through to make sure that what you are publishing is really high quality. One thing I wanted to touch back on is sort of the scope. So you talked a lot about what e-sports research may have been in the past. I’m curious what sort of the scope of e-sports research is today, from what you, what you all see and also what your specific interests are in research in e-sports. <v ->Sure.</v> Unfortunately, I don’t think much has changed because with COVID it’s been pretty much impossible to do lots of traditional active research. You can’t spend time with the players easily. You can’t spend time with other people.
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University students have been virtually off campus most of the year, so it really does stop a lot of ways of carrying out the highest quality research there is. The other factor is funding. Funding really does drive all the research and there hasn’t been the trickle down effect of funding as yet. It is happening. Lots of organizations really want to push funding in key areas, such as health, for example, in these sports players, because there’s been lots of headlines about how professionals are having their careers cut short. So it is one of the hot spots for future research.
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But I think once it’s just our journal, but there has to be other elements in place, I think, before organizations say, yeah, we’re ready to put down five, six figure sums into research. They want to see proper outputs that are well-respected. And that goes beyond just universities and courses and academics. It’s the whole idea of publishing, presenting, and using that research to enforce guidelines. It’s the whole circle as it were.
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<v ->You speaking of funding,</v> I think makes me think of how a lot of research gets done. And, you know, a lot of research is funded, as you mentioned, from universities or from public grants, but there’s also been research that’s funded by private corporations, especially in the case of like pharmacology or medicine. Is that an avenue that you could see happening where teams or industries or developers are funding research on e-sports, or research on the way their players are interacting with the games? <v ->Yeah, I think it’s not only an avenue.</v> I’d say it’s probably the first avenue that that would make sense.
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And what I mean by that is of course, the traditional source of funding, like universities and government level grants are really important and often have vast sums of money. But I think that will take time. I would expect us to be a couple of years, at least two, three years away from that sort of grant being openly accessible to lots of universities. So I really do think it will be the commercial entities that would like research that understandably will increase their revenue or their success if it’s a sports team–Sorry, an e-sports team– and other types of organizations. So I think that is something we should embrace rather than reject.
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Traditionally academics are really scared of commercial funding because obviously it introduces conflicts of bias and conflicts of interest. But it’s something that I think can be done, If many factors are considered carefully, such as the fact that results will be published regardless of outcome. And I think if the researchers work closely with the organizations and say, this is what we really want out of it, we understand this is what you want to know to improve your performance or increase clicks or advertising, whatever it may be, as long as this is something that the two parties can agree on in the context of that gold standard methodology research has done, I think that is the way it should be done, especially at the beginning, to really show how powerful research can be, to increase understanding of how the games work, how people work, and even improving the infrastructure as a whole.
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<v ->Yeah. Speaking of the power of academic journalism,</v> I sort of want to get into a little bit of predictions, but how do you see more academic work in this realm really impacting the e-sports industry? What are some sort of things you would either like to see or predict that we could see?
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<v ->Hmm. I think we will see a lot of research coming out</v> in psychology and performance, as I mentioned to you guys before, I think that’s where a lot of the early research was taking place. I think that will carry on taking place because it’s something that’s easier to perform on players and to see how they’re performing in different circumstances. Actually talking– the good thing about being in the position I’m in is different people approach me and say, we’re actually doing research in here. Can we actually publish it?
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And I’ve had a lot of conversations with famous teams who are really happy we’ve got, what, more academic organizations looking into e-sports because there is a lot of need for academia that the organizations want themselves to help improve their performance. So the tricky bit is improving performance and improving understanding in a way that can be publicly disclosed. Because obviously if organization A says, we want to do research into performance with this, they may not necessarily want that information being publicized internationally because A, that could highlight weaknesses of their team, or you could share the advantages with everyone else, which is not obviously– which is obviously a problem.
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So I think as long as the research is managed in a way that helps both the organization who’s actually funding the project, but clearly lays out what the academics want in terms of public disclosure, it can be dealt with. But it is a tricky line. You’re talking about what predictions would I make? I think, as I was alluding to, research is actually happening a lot behind the scenes, often for commercial or organizational gain. I think people, organizations will see that the more that they publish in an open source manner only improves their credibility. And that will lead to a cycle of more research, clearly showing a higher return on investment, and that will lead to more research being conducted.
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So I think it will slowly transition from classified commercial research to more open general research that benefits everyone, especially the funders. <v ->Awesome. Thank you so much for sharing your insight</v> with us. We appreciate you giving us the opportunity to chat with you.

In this segment, Aaron Koshy, a cardiologist with interest in heart failure and medical devices and Chief Editor of the International Journal of Esports (IJESPORTS), shares how he became interested in academic research on esports including this scope of this research as well as the importance of non-academic perspectives in esports journalism. He also shares his perspectives on the impact of academic journalism in the esports industry.

For the purposes of discussion, please take about five minutes to look through the articles on IJESPORTS.

Discussion: What fields of research (e.g., medical, economic, business) do you find interesting? Is there a research question that you would like answered or that you would want to investigate yourself?

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