The esports industry has been rapidly growing over the last few years, leading it to becoming one of the largest branches of global entertainment. What was once a hobby for some and a career for few has transformed into a hobby for millions and a career for thousands of individuals around the world. Following in the footsteps of traditional sports, esports have been making strides to find a more prominent and impactful position within schools. Many schools have already begun to adopt extracurricular esports clubs and facilities into their systems, however, the concept of kids playing esports in tandem with expanding their education is a rather new one. Video games have carried certain stigmas with them for years now, especially when children are the ones playing them, which has resulted in the topic being a rather divisive one at times. And when it comes to esports as an in-school activity for students, the question becomes whether or not they should be allowed in schools.
Generally, traditional sports such as basketball, soccer, and football are widely accepted as integral and beneficial aspects of a student’s experience as they progress from their first day to the day they graduate. This idea has been commonplace for so long that the benefits they offer may not be entirely obvious, but there’s an array of them. For example, students have the chance to meet other people their age who share similar interests and learn to work together as a team. Team practices, special events for further bonding, and of course competition all contribute to a student’s relationships and experiences, and the same can be said for Esports. Although the format and logistics of the two types of sports are significantly different, they can be much more similar than some people may realize. Esports can serve as another opportunity for students to enjoy an activity alongside their peers and develop friendships while competing. Teamwork is essential, whether the game is physical or virtual, and the time spent practicing, learning, and playing helps the players develop team skills, communication skills, and can be a healthy competitive outlet.
Source: Parent Zone
What is learned in the classroom is undoubtedly a crucial part of a student’s development and effectively allocating time for both formal education and extracurricular activities is additionally important. Studies have shown that students involved with extracurricular activities are subject to personal and experiential benefits that those who only participate in school are not. According to a study from the National Center for Education Statistics, “extracurricular activities provide a channel for reinforcing lessons learned in the classroom, offering students the opportunity to apply academic skills in a real-world context, and are thus considered part of a well-rounded education.” Of course, there will likely be traditional sports and other options such as band or choir, but adding esports to the list creates more opportunities for students to find one they resonate with. Following student participation, the study found that, “Students who participated were three times as likely to perform in the top quartile on a composite math and reading assessment compared with nonparticipants. Participants were also more likely than nonparticipants to aspire to higher education…”
Higher education isn’t necessarily desired by everyone, nor is it an option for all students, but for those who are interested, Esports can lead to opportunities to help make that goal a reality. Experience playing on an Esports team and demonstrating specific skills within an Esport is scholarship worthy for a variety of institutions around the United States from community colleges to universities. That may be hard to believe for some people, and understandably so, but it is becoming more common as the industry continues to grow. They usually aren't as lucrative as playing football for a Division 1 team, but they can still contribute to covering the ever-growing costs of education at higher levels. Competing on college esports teams is also a way to open new doors for students as companies within the esports industry, whether it is for playing professionally or not, often like to see candidates who know esports first hand. Anything from coaching, to sports psychology, to event management may value that experience.
While there are many ways that esports can have positive impacts on students' lives, nothing is absent of possible issues. However, many of the aspects of esports to be wary of are easily solvable or mitigated. One concern may be the content to which students would be exposed to at a young age through video games. Luckily, there are many popular and engaging esports, such as Rocket League, that are suitable for players of any age and still offer the same learning experiences. Communication with unknown individuals through these games is another common concern, but the majority of player-versus-player online games offer features that disable that situation from occurring. Lastly, there might not be any concern greater than the amount of time players can or will spend playing esports, especially when schoolwork is a priority. However, a collaborative effort from teachers, faculty, and parents can help students find a balance between completing their studies and practicing their esport.
There’s no doubt that Esports are the next big thing and as they grow in popularity, they will likely become more common in our everyday lives. Whether it’s through streaming, casual gameplay, or playing competitively, much of the youth today is partaking in video games and esports to some extent. And while they have been around for a few decades now, we are still discovering the positive aspects that gaming can provide and how they can change the scope of the entertainment industry. Offering Esports within schools would require some extra thought and planning, but by doing so, students can have the opportunity to learn new things, apply their education outside of the classroom, and even excel in their academics. On the surface, Esports may seem much different than traditional extracurricular activities, but in reality they can be as impactful and beneficial as their counterparts.
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Chase Mulonas is a 23 year old living in Grand Rapids, MI. Video games, Esports, and all forms of media are the things he is most passionate about and he is actively working to make a full-time career out of the combination of the two. In his free time he enjoys playing games with friends, collecting vinyl records, and watching professional esports.