In the past few years, you may have come across the term esports on your social media feed or in the news. While the multi-billion dollar video game industry is well established, the recent expansion of esports into mainstream culture has led to many questions regarding its suitability for young people, especially in a school environment. At the start of the 2020/21 school year, TIS created an esports team for the first time in an effort to tap into this emerging trend and harness the potential of this activity.
In short, esports is organized competitive multiplayer video games. Similar to how sports encompasses games like basketball, football and swimming, there are a lot of games that fall into the realm of esports, with some of the most popular being League of Legends, Mario Kart, and Rocket League, just to name a few.
While many parents and educators may have reservations about playing video games in school, they may not be aware that esports could be a channel for a scholarship at a top university, or a career in a high growth industry. What if esports could also help reduce a child’s anxiety, build better teamwork skills, and foster strong character development?
At TIS, we are always looking for new ways to engage and challenge our students while adding options to our already diverse portfolio of activities. A recent study (Pew Research 2017) shows that 97% of boys and 83% of girls ages 13 to 17 identify as being a gamer of some kind. These numbers are consistent across race and socio-economic lines.
The stigma associated with video games has always been a challenge for parents and teachers alike. With traditional interest-based pursuits such as art, music, or dance, no child is being told that they’re drawing too much, playing the piano too much, or dancing too much, but we are often too quick to tell our kids that playing video games is a waste of time. However, in today's modern space where children are choosing to play and learn, we as educators would be doing children a disservice if we were to blindly dismiss gaming as having no positive impact on today’s youth.
To properly harness the potential of esports, we must think beyond just the games. We must understand the intrinsic value and motivation of this demographic and look at how we can further engage students in a healthy and productive way.
Esports brings opportunity for everyone to come together in a shared space around a love of gaming that can be safer than other unregulated online gaming spaces. By bringing these children together, we can now begin to diversify opportunities for student participation. Once we have children engaged in school activities they enjoy, research shows their academic performance increases and their attendance improves (O’Hagen 2019).
As part of this esports ecosystem, we employ aspects of traditional sports training because research shows that it helps to develop complex reasoning skills at the peak of competition. We promote good mental health practices with positive adult interaction and through play. With esports, we are putting our children into an experience where both play and mentorship are prevalent. Colleges have also begun to take note of esports and are attracting students with scholarships of varying size. In 2023, there will be an estimated $100 million in scholarship money available related to esports (O’Hagen 2019).
Probably the most important aspect of esports at TIS is that it provides a safe and inclusive environment for students to play, which helps to defray the issues of online toxicity and helps children navigate through their own play space as we would facilitate a traditional playground.
As adults, most of us are standing on the edge of a virtual world that our children have already entered. Esports provides a realm for them to master their passions and develop tangible opportunities. TIS hopes to make this activity available to more students starting next school year. Let’s pick up a controller and join them!