Schools and Esports: A Natural Fit

February 22, 2021

As a parent of a gamer, I recognize the dilemma that educators have with gaming and esports. The easiest position is to be close-minded, and no one will blame them. The students already believe they are misunderstood by their educators. Choosing this option is to ignore the elephant in the room and hope it goes away, which is not very ‘adult-ish’. Preparing students for a future that is dynamic is difficult but worth exploring. Every day, around the world, educators lament the fact that students are not wholly impassioned about their studies and their future. 

Maybe, just maybe…. The answer is in front of us.  Gaming is the fastest growing industry on the planet and 70% of kids consider themselves gamers.  That dwarfs traditional sports.  As gaming and esports continue to be accepted in the education world, the combination of passion and learning is exploding. Journalism departments involved in writing about events, art/design classes involved in graphics, inclusivity and gender equality at unmatched levels and life skills that better prepare kids for the future. It explains why “gamers” graduate university at a higher rate and often go into the most desired tech related fields. These positive experiences have led me to believe that every school should have an esports team and support controlled gaming. Here are three significant reasons:

  1. Esports allows you to teach a range of skills

Leadership, communication, teamwork, and how to win and lose with class are critical skills in life that can be taught through esports. STEM related careers are abound with this booming industry and having a deeper understanding can be instrumental. Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) through esports is proven and can reach at-risk students in ways that confound adults. 

Advanced K-12 esports programs are starting to teach how nutrition and exercise can improve performance and how players can avoid being triggered, playing tilted, or handle toxicity when gaming. In addition to connecting with students, esports is a great way to build students’ skill sets and social/emotional learning. Additionally, esports is a place where ‘hard’ conversations can take place – topics around culture issues, toxicity, bullying and misogyny. It provides the adults an environment to teach internet savvy kids how to use technology and the internet for the positives rather than negatives and also a way to educate our most vulnerable students.

  1. Esports creates engagement and a sense of belonging

Many students who participate in esports are not who you would normally think. They range the full spectrum and provide an atmosphere of inclusivity and equality that nothing else in school can match. Most of the kids don’t play a sport, nor do they have any home/school connection. They usually aren’t involved in any clubs, either. Most of the kids, prior to esports teams, went home after school every day and played video games by themselves. The best part about the growth of esports in schools is watching kids develop a sense of belonging. The community gives a new social group to be a part of instead of playing alone. It is the sense of community and belonging that is esports’ greatest strength, since these kids who may need it most probably aren’t getting it anywhere else. Codes of conduct, a safe environment, respect and ensuring eligibility are welcomed by students because it is their community, and that is strong. 

  1. Esports is a path to the future

Having an esports team presents a great opportunity to empower students’ Career and Technical Education (CTE). Since esports and gaming is the fastest-growing industries in the world, it is important that students know they can turn their love of video games into careers, especially STEM careers. Career options are numerous and students that are involved in these activities are better prepared while they are enjoying their passion. It’s not just about ‘playing’. Schools are building out an esports ecosystem. In addition to players on a team, teams can have players and other support staff that fill vital roles on the esports team, such as shoutcaster, IT specialist, scout, statistician, graphic designer, video editor, event planner, journalist, accountant, marketer, and many more. This is far beyond a ‘water boy’ for the football team! 

Students get hands-on experience with possible careers they might want to explore as they get older. 

The easiest position is to be close-minded…  I hope educators are willing to look at the alternative. It has made a world of difference for my son.

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