Date of Award


Publication Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name



Communication Studies

First Advisor

Vincent Manzerolle


Collegiate Athletics, Esports, Ethnography, Institutional Work, Institutionalism



Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.


What follows is an ethnographic study of Canada’s first varsity esports program. Esports – formalized competitive videogaming – is a cultural and industrial phenomenon taking root in North America. This research yields rich qualitative data, collected through participant observation and interviews with esports student-athletes, providing insider perspectives on the institutionalization of the organizational field. My interdisciplinary approach offers insight on institutional pressures and their relationship to stakeholders, player agency, and institutional work – broadly speaking the creation, maintenance, and disruption of organizational social institutions. In 2011, institutionalists Lawrence, Suddaby and Leca called for the refocused exploration of the relationship between individuals, their agency, and institutions. Additionally, they emphasized the importance of bridging the gap between critical and institutional views of organizational behaviour. Critical scholars, such as T.L. Taylor, declared the importance of researching esports, for its consequences on our understanding of socio-technical systems and evolving traditional institutions (Taylor, 2018). This thesis’ discussion of Foucauldian power dynamics, in relation to its findings, rears significant questions pertaining to the perpetuation of biased institutions via normative isomorphic pressures, as well as meaning making and identity work. Thus, bridging critical and institutional views to explore the trends of progressing professionalization and gamer-identity in the field.