As esports continues to skyrocket in popularity, schools and educators are beginning to catch on to the craze and the potential it has to enhance a learning environment. Rather than dismissing the genre as a distraction, some educators use the attention-grabbing platform to their advantage, applying it to encourage extracurriculars and even enrich classroom instruction.
The esports industry is currently in a unique position, poised to make a major contribution to education and change the way we enrich student life across the globe.
How eSports Factor in
There are several independent leagues that facilitate the presence of esports in schools, such as High School Sports League and PayVS, two of the leaders in this field. Between 2018 and 2019, the number of these organizations nearly doubled. It would appear that whether anyone is ready or not, scholastic esports is on the verge of a breakthrough and is ready to make an impact in more ways than one.
The role that esports stands to play in educational environments is dynamic and ultra-inclusive. Because students can participate as competitors, viewers or as potential investors and developers, the possibilities are honestly endless. Primarily, we expect to see scholastic esports making a splash in both extracurricular and educational channels.
One of the first spaces this platform is poised to infiltrate and enhance is for extracurriculars. Any good educator knows that students who engage in extracurricular activities are more successful in many ways. Involved kids tend to have higher self-esteem and care more about doing well in school.
Esports offers extracurricular opportunities for kids who are less interested in more conventional offerings. Not all students aspire to be star basketball players or cheerleaders. Math clubs and chess leagues offer little excitement at face value, and don’t exactly draw a crowd (even though the popularity of academic-based activities is much higher than it has been in the past).
The Pew Research Center reported in 2018 that 97% of teenage boys and 83% of teenage girls played video games. Of those gamers, not many were involved in other extracurricular activities. By offering esports as an option for clubs or school-sponsored activities, schools could bring this dynamic group out of their solitary game rooms and into a more inclusive, social space where they can grow alongside peers with common interests.
One of the coolest things about esports is that it goes hand in hand with STEM learning. Kids who love to game are often just as interested in learning about the broader concept of technology, and enjoy subjects like science, technology, engineering and math. Getting students involved in esports has the potential to spark curiosity about these subjects.
In addition to creating an interest in core educational subjects, esports can also help students sharpen and refine their knowledge in these topics. Esports foster creativity and collaboration among students, which help them perform better in many classroom settings and in group projects.
Many career opportunities are available to students who choose to focus on STEM studies. Likewise, careers in esports are a quickly growing sector of tech-driven jobs, with professionals who range everywhere from software development to marketing.
Helping students find their passion early in life can be a key feature to feeding their success. Introducing or encouraging esports in schools can help young children discover talents or intrigue in a wide variety of developing industries that include web design, robotics, graphic design or even a knack for knocking other gamers out of the ring.
And to the parents who say playing video games won’t get you anywhere, there are around 200 colleges in the United States that collectively offer at least $15 million each year in esports scholarships. That means thousands of kids every year, given the opportunity to go to school and continue to feed their curiosity and drive.
Outside of the classroom, esports contributes another form of learning that doesn’t often happen in algebra. Esports participation can help develop crucial skills that many children refine while participating in organized extracurricular and team sports.
Participation in esports can nurture critical skills, including teamwork, social skills, strategic thinking and planning, navigating success and failure, and time management.
Some educators, parents, athletes and laypeople shudder at the thought of video games being considered a sport. There has long been an ongoing discussion about this exact issue, but with time, the majority opinion has shifted toward the progression of esports. As the popularity of esports continues to climb rapidly, so does its base of players, viewers and fans.
In 2019, the number of eSports viewers and enthusiasts weighed in at just under 400 million. If growth continues at this incredible pace (which has only picked up speed since the beginning of the pandemic), the year 2024 could see that number of fans climb well over 576 million.
Esports on the Horizon
It’s easy to get kids and teenagers excited about gaming. What’s not so simple is convincing their parents and teachers that it’s a good idea. Thanks to the many organizations popping up across the globe, it’s becoming much easier and widely accepted that esports can and should be part of the bill at schools everywhere.
High schools and colleges around the country and the globe are making astounding strides to incorporate gaming into their extracurricular culture and even their curriculum. Finally, there’s a place at the table for the kids who never really fit in with the rest, and it’s the seat that’s going to shape the future.