Starting a Technology Camp at an Esports Center

 In esports, ggCircuit
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The good ole days of nerd camp.

As summer is upon us, I thought it’d be a good idea to put together a little go-to guide for esports centers looking for a way to bring in more revenue in the summer.

For four summers, I led a technology camp at an esports center. My background was in IT. I had a few years teaching programming and web at a for-profit college.

As we began my foray into being an esports center manager, one of my significant roles of being involved was to develop a technology camp for kids. It was called Create & Play Camps. Kids from 8–16 came to participate in different curricula. We did student learning in the morning and team-based gameplay in the afternoon. It was a healthy revenue stream for us in the summer.

I wanted to take the time to write out some considerations on how to plan and conduct a summer camp if you are considering this in your esports center.

Building Curricula

This task is something that should be started and worked on as school begins in the fall. In our camps, we provided a wide variety of subjects. From programming to graphics to game dev to streaming. The curriculum can take time to build and create.

If you aren’t the most technically savvy person, do not let this defeat you. Keep in mind that you will be utilizing tools aimed at teens. It’s better if you have graphically based, drag and drop programming tools where the campers can develop something quickly and then add on to it.

There is no shame in utilizing a YouTube education to get a solid base in whatever programs you’re using, seek out tutorials, and make the lessons and examples your own.

Technology to Lean On

There is no shortage of software out there to help kids learn to program and do other media-based skills. You will need to decide what you want to utilize and how much you’re willing to spend on these tools to utilize during your summer camps.

In the programming realm, we utilized tools such as Kodu, Scratch & Minecraft EDU to use easy to use and quick building mini-games. The game design curriculum was through Construct 2. Graphics courses we used Pixler. For streaming and video production, it was mostly OBS and Camtasia.

Not only do you need to familiarize yourself with the technology and exercises you are doing, but do not forget to collect the assets for each activity and add them to a network drive or USB that the students can access.

Building The Camp Schedule

Each camp of ours ran Monday through Friday. Each week offered up multiple camps for kids. Usually, camps ran for eights weeks. Some camps will be more popular than others. Our typical camp day looked like the following.

  • 9:00 am Start and Camp Lesson
  • 10:00 am Morning Snack
  • 10:30 am Continued Learning & Building On Exercises
  • Noon Lunch
  • 1:00 pm First Gaming Session
  • 2:30 pm Afternoon Snack
  • 3:00 pm Second Gaming Session
  • 4:00 pm End

Pricing

This topic will depend on where you are in the country. Our camps, on average, were $250 per week. Higher if there was more technology involved. A couple of years, we ran a hardware camp with Kano that more expensive. Of course, this is up to you and your economic region

Developing a Registration Site

Luckily I had a background in web development and built a custom registration site through WordPress and different plugins. I had to do some custom coding, but you’ll need the following details and capabilities.

  • Camp schedule, what camps on what weeks.
  • Capacity For Registration
  • Capacity Tracking
  • Parents Information & Contact Info
  • Emergency Contact Info
  • Information needed on who’s allowed to pick up
  • Allergies & Special Needs

The final two are probably the most critical information to keep in mind as you run the camp sessions.

Advertising The Camps

Usually, the February & March time frames are the best times to start advertising. If you utilize your customer email lists in your esports center, you’re likely to have built-in leads that you can cater.

Outside of using your customer list, depending on what city you’re in, there are camp guides and summer activity publications in cities that are good ways to get parents interested in the idea of an educational gaming camp.

Finally, there are some camp fairs that you can attend, usually in shopping malls to promote your camps.

Of course, you can always utilize social media methods, but shaking hands and explaining your concept always goes a long way face to face with parents.

Hiring Counselors

The best counselors I hired were customers in my esports center. I was lucky enough to have one gamer who had dabbled in game development and another who was an education major looking for experience. Other avenues you could utilize would be internship opportunities & previous campers who have experience in the camp before. They must know enough technology to get by and know most of the ins & outs of esports titles used in the gaming sessions.

Expenses

We’ve already discussed software technology needs, other things to consider are counselor pay, snack & drink costs, lunch costs (if you are providing it), printing costs, and special expenses (certificates, souvenirs).

Training the Counselors

The week before the camp, I would spend two full days with the counselors walking them through the different software programs. I would go through at least one example from each curriculum, so they got the hang of it. A lot of being prepared for the students is to be at least one day ahead of them.

What About Regular Business?

One of the decisions with camp capacity and the number of PCs you have in your esports center is how will you deal with regular business. Depending on when you usually open (for us it was noon daily), you will need to decide how many PCs you can have available for regular customers that do not interfere with what you’re trying to do for the camps. Regular business customers will need to be an early decision that needs to be made. If you have a separate room and PC capacity, it may be an easy decision. You may have to make the tough call not to open until the camp is over for the day.

Deciding The Afternoon

I left this one up to my counselors. It is somewhat of a double edged sword. You want to find games that can be team based, fun, interactive and collaborative. The biggest factor is game ratings and whether or not you can customize the games not to be violent. Parents may have an issue with violent games and that will need to be established previous to the camp.

Our go-to games were Minecraft, Team Fortress 2, Mario Kart, Slither.io, Agar.io, and a few others I’m forgetting. Especially with Minecraft, you can get creative via servers and modes. Of course, I would be remiss not to say something like Fortnite. Luckily I didn’t have to deal with the Fortnite rage during my tenure as a camp director.

Before and After Care

One thing that you may be forgetting is doing before and aftercare for kids. We would open the doors each day at 7 am and close at 5 pm. Aftercare was charged based on our hourly rate. Total owed was collected at the end of the week from the parents.

Last Day of the Week

At the end of the week, we made sure to take pictures of each camp and get them printed for all kids with a customized frame around the image with our camp logo and esports center logo as a memento. We also printed camp certificates for each student serving as a recognition of completion.

Dealing With Parents

Rarely did I ever have complicated issues with parents or kids for that matter in the four summers I ran the camps. If there is an issue where you screwed up, make it right. If a disciplinary thing needed to happen, we would sit the kids away from the camp for some time and let the parents know about it at the end of the day.

I think one thing I would recommend is that in your documentation and marketing materials, be forthcoming about the concepts taught. What I mean by this is if you’re going to teach the basics in a fun matter, be clear about that. I had some parents who felt their kid would come away from the camp with a minor in computer science. Make sure it’s clear that you are planting the seeds of technology for it to grow in future years.

In Summary

That is a quick summary of different topics related to building technology summer camps in an esports center. Shoot me a message if you’re looking for further details on building your camp.

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