Esports in Education: Big Benefits of esports in Schools


Video games have long been under debate regarding their effects on kids. Debates aside, video games are becoming more respected and accepted.  The competitive and social aspects of gaming have led their way to esports, where players (and teams) go head to head in competition for an audience.

Schools are actively embracing esports.  You’ll find esports teams, leagues, clubs, and extracurricular activities throughout K-12 schools as well as colleges and universities.  In this post, we’ll explore the impact of esports in education and the benefits of esports in schools; both for the schools and the students.

benefits of esports in schools

“Esports can be a gateway to interest and affiliation with school, improved STEM learning and interest, positive relationships with peers and adults, and strengthened self-regulation.”

NORTH AMERICAN SCHOLASTIC ESPORTS FEDERATION

Benefits of esports for students

By now, coming across a teen or young adult who has never played video games is pretty rare. Video games, in the form of esports, have been embraced by many schools as an extracurricular activity. Kids can participate in teams and compete in leagues. Some schools offer degrees in esports.

As Delane Parnell, Founder and CEO at PlayVS, notes “there are more high school gamers than athletes, it’s about time we foster this pastime in an educational setting.”

Wow, more gamers than athletes. It makes sense for schools to engage students where their interests lie and give them a safe outlet to play, learn, and engage with esports.

Esports is about more than just playing games – it can be used to help students grow their STEM interests and develop valuable life skills. And since there are more high school gamers than athletes, it’s about time we foster this pastime in an educational setting.

Delane Parnell – Founder and CEO at PlayVS

While esports athletes may not be getting the exercise of the football or basketball teams, they’re also not exposed to some of the physical injuries. Esports sits alongside more cognitive based extracurricular activities like debate or chess. Chess has recently seen increased interest as an esport itself. (Check out our post on how Chess relates to STEM.)

Getting kids involved in video games and esports has shown benefits in a variety of areas, including:

Hand-eye coordination

Great for almost anything you have to do later in life. The movement of mouse or game controller to screen can be a difficult one to learn, since it’s pretty hard to explain.

This is extremely important if your kid plans on going into anything involving most sciences like engineering, surgery, etc or even sports like football or tennis.

Games also require a player to track a number of inputs at once. What’s happening in the player’s immediate space as opposed to the overall game map? How are stats like the health bar? Which button or direction is best right now? Many aspects of game play are happening at once and involve split second decisions and instincts. Coordination is a key skill here, and esports can sharpen these skills.

Mathematical skills

To improve their game, esports players are often digging in to their own game stats. Basic math and data analysis skills help them find out where they may have misstepped in a match or how they can tweak their strategy to gain an edge.

These math skills are directly relatable to, well, everything. This kind of thinking is great for science or health majors, anyone going into business for finances, and for general “adulting” stuff like managing a budget.

Critical Thinking

Easily the most important thing a video game can teach is how to think critically. Often video games have puzzles or riddles to solve in order to continue play.

Like any competition, players need to consider their opponent’s moves and try to figure out their overall strategy while adjusting their own moves to counter and win.

Today’s games can be complex with lots of movements, statistics, and or choices., and The action happens at lightning speed. Gamers need to process the data quickly and react accordingly, which requires critical (and quick) thinking.

In esports, team strategy presents a key critical thinking challenge, as well as the individual players’ contribution to the team’s goals.

Focus and Concentration

Our 5 year old moves from activity to activity, often losing interest quickly.  Give him a tablet with something like Angry Birds?  He suddenly develops a laser focus super power.  He’ll sit there and quietly play until we pry it out of his hands or the battery loses its charge.

This hyper-focus doesn’t need to be reserved for games.  Gaming can change the way our brains work.  An article in Science Daily cites “studies found that gamers show improvements in several types of attention, such as sustained attention or selective attention. The brain regions involved in attention are also more efficient in gamers and require less activation to sustain attention on demanding tasks.”  

Experience with technology

In today’s world, you can’t get enough experience with technology. Interest in gaming exposes kids to the hardware platform, software layers, operating systems, etc. that are required to run the games. They’re learning technology as a byproduct of esports.

Chances are, they’ll need to do some troubleshooting along the way with things like connecting the hardware or setting up network connectivity. These skills are directly transferable to many careers.

Video gaming and esports may even inspire kids to become programmers or hardware designers for computers.

Related Post: Have a kid interested in programming? Check our post on how to teach kids to code.

Problem Solving

Whether its a matter of analyzing a game character’s statistics, selecting builds or options to provide the maximum benefit, or analyzing an opponent’s strategy, games and esports are all about problem solving.

It may seem trivial “in real life” to be pouring over video game stats, though players are conducting some heavy analysis and digging deep into their math skills to find optimized builds and winning combinations. They’re building strategies to adapt to opponents’ tactics.

They’re also learning that in order to win in league tournaments, they need to operate as a team.

Team Building

Esports Teams and Tournaments

Many esports games involve characters with different abilities that players can control. Not only does this mix of characters cater to different play styles, they are designed to work in concert with each other.

If everyone on the team is a Tank dealing heavy damage and hitting the competition head on, there isn’t anyone supporting this effort. If everyone on the team is in a support role, there isn’t anyone on the front lines to stand up to the opposing players, and they’ll find themselves quickly overwhelmed.

These characters are meant to work together and compliment each other. Players need to act as a team to win. Often, tournament champions win because they work together.

In  observation of esports league players at University of California—Irvine,  “we have seen some students shift from a focus on their own individual glory to their team’s best interest” (as reported in US News.)

Social Advantages of playing esports

While video games may have gotten a bad wrap over the years, esports introduces a new era where being a gamer doesn’t have to come with the stereotype of being a cellar dwelling troglodyte or couch bum. Video games are not only common in most households, but have become socially acceptable, especially with the inclusion or esports teams in colleges and high schools.

Dr. Constance Steinkuehler on how esports positively impact student’s academic, social, and emotional wellness.

Along with other team-related sports, esports helps high schoolers and kids in college hone their social skills such as communication, working as a team, and overall social interactions, all of which are necessities in the working world.

Teams can also help kids learn right from wrong, how to deal with disappointing losses, and how to manage frustration, anger, and sadness.

Overall, esports can offer just as much to growing kids and young adults as most other extra-curricular activities. Most kids play video games these days anyway; why not encourage them to win a scholarship with it, or to go for it and compete professionally?

Benefits of esports for schools

We can see the many benefits of esports for students, how do schools benefit from esports? Everything from the notoriety of being a pioneer in an emerging field, attracting students with unique degree programs, or becoming a hub in a growing billion dollar industry, schools have much to gain from adding esports to their educational offerings.

Student Involvement and Engagement

Through esports, schools can provide activities for students that may otherwise be disinterested or disengaged. Esports can provide a way for students to get involved in school doing something they love and maintain their interest in school.

For K-12 schools, that can translate into an opportunity to reach kids that may have otherwise fallen through the cracks. For colleges and universities, this can mean a bump in enrollment, retention, and graduation rates.


Monetary benefits from esports

Everything comes down to the bottom line, and esports is becoming a BIG business. A billion dollars kind of big. Esports is projected to grow to a $1.65 billion business by 2021 and some expect esports to find its way into the Olympics, which would only further its popularity and reach.

Like other professional sports, there are advertising and endorsement dollars. At the collegiate level, there are scholarship dollars to help recruiting efforts to entice up and coming players.

“Esports isn’t the ‘next big thing,’ it’s the current big thing.”

US News and World Report, June 12, 2018

New Programs and Degrees

With esports growing at a rapid pace, it’s creating a new industry that needs qualified people in all roles. Most people focus on the players. There is a whole business and industry that has built around the players, creating a variety of new jobs and skill sets needed.

There are a number of schools that are recognizing and meeting this need with new degrees around esports and esports business, as well as game design. These programs may attract students who are specifically looking for this kind of degree.

Related Post: Earn a Degree in esports – find out which colleges and universities offer degrees in esports.

Having a new and specialized degree program can help attract (and retain) new students who may not have otherwise considered a university.

esports Arenas

Many colleges and universities are becoming a hub of esports activity by building esports arenas on campus. Just a few examples of universities that are becoming epicenters of esports with on campus arenas:

University of California – Irvine has bragging rights to the UCI Esports Arena. It’s the first arena of its kind on a college campus, with 3,500 square feet of space and 80 computer gaming stations. This facility is the hub of UCI’s esports and gaming programs, and host of many tournaments.

SUNY Canton built a $500,000 professional eSports gaming area. SUNY Canton has one of the largest dedicated gaming arenas in the Northeast United States.

Exposure and Reputation

Everyone likes to win. Winning brings accolades, attention, recognition, and respect.

Schools are gaining notoriety for pioneering esports. Whether it’s the first degree in esports, the biggest esports arena, or winner of the latest tournament, schools are making headlines and news.

Wrap up: Benefits of esports in Schools and Education

Esports are on the rise, and schools are taking notice and adapting. There are a growing number of benefits of esports in schools, both for the students and players as well as the school.

Esports benefits students by helping them develop individual skills, social skills, and work as part of a team.

Esports benefits schools, colleges, and universities by providing new ways of attracting and engaging students.

hevanmiller

H. Evan Miller is as dedicated to fatherhood as he is to life long learning. Musician, Photographer, Educator, Consultant, Entrepreneur, Blogger, and founder of STEMtropolis, where you can share his adventures in STEM and STEAM with his family.

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