The Collegiate Esports Commissioner’s Cup was held in May at the Gateway Center Arena in College Park. (SkillShot Media)

Georgia is implementing a game plan that combines esports competition, curriculum and workforce development to help college students get jobs in the gaming, esports and digital entertainment fields.

The new program, named the Georgia Esports League (GEL), is a partnership between the Georgia Department of Economic Development, the Georgia Film Academy, and esports companies SkillSkillshot Media and Atlanta-based Ghost Gaming. The league will be open to all 2-year and 4-year colleges in Georgia and will offer numerous titles beginning with Rocket League.

The collegiate league is the nation’s first comprehensive statewide initiative covering esports competition, curriculum, and workforce development to serve the videogame, esports, and digital entertainment industry, according to a state official.

“Gaming and digital entertainment are key industry initiatives for Georgia,” said Asante Bradford of the Department of Georgia Economic Development in a news release.

“The Georgia Esports League will help attract college students across our state to this growing industry, so we can continue to fill the jobs posted by the many tech and digital media companies relocating to Georgia,” Bradford said.

Rocket League, a video game where players score soccer goals using high-powered vehicles, is played across Georgia in middle school and is a sanctioned high school varsity sport. It is also played at the collegiate and professional level. Ghost Gaming has a top professional Rocket League team.

“Esports is education,” said Todd Harris, CEO of Skillshot Media and Ghost Gaming, in the release. “We’re excited to build out skill development that goes well beyond just playing games.”

Live esports events are on the rise in Georgia. In May, Skillshot, EsportsU and the Collegiate Sports Management Group produced the Collegiate Esports Commissioner’s Cup at Gateway Arena in College Park. The Riot Games come to Atlanta in October where the Worlds 2022 League of Legends semifinals will take place at State Farm Arena. In November, the global gaming festival Dreamhack returns to the Georgia World Congress Center with an expected attendance of over 40,000.

Major gaming and tech companies are also planting flags in the state. Microsoft is planning a 90-acre corporate campus in Grove Park on the city’s west side. Meta, formerly known as Facebook, is undertaking a data-center expansion along I-20 east of Atlanta valued at $42 billion. Google is in the midst of a roughly 500,000 square-foot expansion in Midtown.

Georgia is a leader in the new digital entertainment economy, building off the success of the film industry, which saw a direct spend of $4 billion dollars in Georgia last year, according to state officials.

“Building off our success in film, Georgia’s next workforce initiative is gaming, esports, and digital entertainment,” said Jeff Stepakoff, executive director of the Georgia Film Academy, in the release.

“We are thrilled to partner with industry experts Skillshot Media and Ghost Gaming to build out the curriculum, deliver hands-on experiences with industry tools, and engage students via Georgia Esports League competition, events, and live-streaming,” he said. “Georgia now has a full ecosystem around the world’s fastest evolving creative economy.”

Dyana Bagby is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers and Atlanta Intown.