December 17, 2018

Not Your Traditional Athletics Program: The Value of Esports in Education

Category: New Trends
Close up of hands holding game controllers

Esports may be a young industry, but it’s a flourishing one that’s been shown to develop both academic and social skills in high school and college students throughout the country.

As competitive video gaming continues to gain more acceptance as a “real” sport, it’s also taking on some of the traits traditional sports have long enjoyed: competitive pro leagues, college competition, and big-name sponsors. Even more incredible is that in 2016 the games earned more global viewers than the regular NFL season.

The Benefits of Esports

The North America Scholastic Esports Federation (NASEF) wants to bring its mission to students at every age and skill level. It aims to provide opportunities for them to use esports as “a platform to acquire critical communication, collaboration, and problem-solving skills need to thrive in work and in life.”

For NASEF, it’s simple: all students should be given the opportunity to gain the knowledge and skills they need to be not only talented gamers, but societal game changers: educated, empathic, and productive individuals.

Though kids of all ages may show a propensity towards—and talent—for video gaming, high school is usually the time when it becomes more than a hobby. There are many positive aspects to gaming, including leveraging it for youth engagement in STEM interests as well as social emotional learning.

Enhanced Social Skills

The stereotype that video game players are anti-social isn’t necessarily true. After all, players tend to build their own online communities. But the players have often felt left out on their school campus because schools tend to focus on more physical sports like soccer, football, and basketball.

Esports provide a valuable outlet for students who are aren’t interested in traditional sports and also help:

  • Break down barriers between diverse student groups.
  • Build student relationships and personal confidence.
  • Encourage collaboration and development of problem-solving skills.

Esports is a great way to prepare students for the increasingly digital world they live in, too. They learn how to apply lessons learned through gaming to real-life situations that require decision making, teamwork, and perseverance.

Bolster Learning

Constance Steinkuehler, a leading scholar in all things related to video gaming believes that games amplify learning and academics. Studies are ongoing, but as NASEF reports, there’s already plenty of evidence for why educators should embrace esports.

MIT, which offers one of the most respected engineering programs in the country, sees the educational benefits to gaming. In fact, the institute is home to T.L. Taylor, one of the leading academics in the field. And for the past seven years, the university has sponsored an esports panel that examines the latest trends and innovations in the industry.

Esports as a learning platform encourages students to use gaming to learn science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Fast-paced, popular games like “League of Legends” are teaching students how to shift their focus from individual glory to team goals and to move from a negative reaction to loss to a proactive desire to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it.

Students are also learning how to analyze gameplay data in order to improve their skills. The bonus? They’re realizing that basic math and comparison metrics give them a whole new understanding of the game.

Scholarship Opportunities

Esports is opening up an exciting new path to higher education for the students who play them. Colleges and universities are now offering esports programs and offering scholarships to students who may never have considered pursuing a higher degree.

Serious Play

Like all sports, getting together with fellow gamers to practice is fun. But the heart and soul of esports is competition—and winning.

To ensure students benefit both academically and socially, it’s crucial to develop partnerships with key esports associations like NASEF who have mastered the art of creatively intertwining gaming and education. They’re helping to put schools in the desirable position of encouraging students to consider gaming as a competitive team sport and a valuable educational tool.

Banner image credit: “Besucher testen Gaming-Kontroller” by Marco Verch is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.