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What can I do to help my kid succeed in esports—and why should I want to?
Let’s look at the growth of esports in schools and higher ed. When we talk about our students being entertained by gaming and esports, already showing data that 97% of students play, we need to talk about the esports growth in schools.
In this blog, we look at the numbers of students in esports in schools and higher education and answer the question: “What can I do to help my kid succeed in esports and why should I want to?”
Almost 2,000 North American colleges have esports clubs. The numbers are adding up every day and those numbers are still being collected based on what constitutes an esports academic, club or varsity team. Organizations like LFGroup.GG and NACE each have a list of varsity-type esports programs and scholarship opportunities.
Of those 2,000 higher education institutions, we know that a majority of them are student-based esports clubs, and only about 200 of them have scholarships to compete on a varsity team.
Why should my kid get started in competitive esports before college?
(Hint: scholarship opportunities)
There is actually more than $20 million in college scholarship money, based on data from NJCAA, ECAC, UEA, NACE and other collegiate esports organizations. Sadly, about $4-5 million of those dollars go unused because there are not enough high school students in the pipeline to recruit. This means your student could earn one of those scholarships if they get involved in a competitive program like the High School Esports League to prove to colleges their gameplay, leadership and skill level on a national playing field.
More than 4,000 high schools in North America have created an esports club in the past eight years. The two largest scholastic esports organizations in the world are NASEF (North American Scholastic Esports Federation), which is on a mission to provide opportunities for ALL students, and HSEL (High School Esports League), which is the largest and longest-operating competitive gaming organization for high schools. These organizations serve both students and educators.
HSEL and the Varsity Esports Foundation teamed up with educators Dr. Kristy Custer (award-winning curriculum writer) and Dr. Michael Russell to develop the world’s only comprehensive free textbook for gaming and esports.
Esports can increase your high school student’s GPA and SEL
The free Gaming Concepts curriculum for high schools, combined with esports clubs, has shown on average to increase a student’s GPA by 1.7 and attendance by 10%. Gaming Concepts teaches college and career-ready skills and social-emotional learning (SEL)—all through the lens of video games and esports! By harnessing students’ passion for games and bringing it into the classroom, Gaming Concepts improves academic performance and attendance—all while equipping students with the life skills they’ll need to ace college and beyond. Gaming Concepts is a turnkey curriculum available 100% for free to educators interested in implementing it. The full coursebook, available to download as a PDF, includes instructions on how to secure approval from your administration and school board, and peer-reviewed notes from Wichita State University. This curriculum has been downloaded more than 300,000 times from people in 40 different countries. Social-emotional learning through curriculum and competition esports clubs are not only for playing games at school. Through the club, students will receive the tools needed to use their interest in gaming as a way to improve critical real-world skills!
The curriculum and clubs have been most effective with students who may not want to throw a ball or play an instrument at school. This sub-set of students who may not have a support system, and struggle with belonging are now met with what they are good at and allowed to succeed. When students of esports clubs who are also using the gaming concepts curriculum are asked what other activities they participate in at school, 82% of them state they have never participated in extracurricular activities.
Esports in school supports STEM/STEAM learning
New evidence that shows a well-planned esports program can indeed support STEM learning in a variety of ways. In particular, it encourages teamwork for problem-solving, scientific methodology, using data and evidence, technological proficiency, education equity and inclusion. Girls who play video games are three times more likely to pursue STEM careers than girls who don’t. Currently, there is a low uptake of girls pursuing STEM careers, particularly those from a lower socio-economic background. Playing video games teaches and enhances girls’ problem-solving, spatial reasoning, creativity, strategy and digital skills, which are all important skills needed for STEM subjects.
Girls who play video games are three times more likely to pursue STEM careers than girls who don’t.
What about a connection between violence and video games?
Is there a screentime link? Researchers at the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford, have found no relationship between aggressive behavior in teenagers and the amount of time spent playing violent video games, based on a peer-reviewed University of Oxford study. Violence in video games is also a common objection. Blaming video games for violence in the real world is no more productive than blaming the news media for bringing violent crime into our homes night after night. Numerous authorities have examined the scientific record and found that it does not establish any causal link between media content and real-life violence.
The American Psychological Association reaffirmed their August 2015 resolution in light of many occasions in which members of the media or policymakers have said that violent video games are the cause of violent behavior, including mass shootings. “Violence is a complex social problem that likely stems from many factors that warrant attention from researchers, policymakers and the public,” said APA President Sandra L. Shullman, PhD. “Attributing violence to video gaming is not scientifically sound and draws attention away from other factors, such as a history of violence, which we know from the research is a major predictor of future violence.” Politicians continue to blame video games, here’s a simple chart showing the top video game–consuming countries and the number of violent gun deaths in each of them.
Is esports even a sport? Do we call them virtual athletes?
This where esports fits within the definition of sport. Sports must include play, organization, rules, skill and physical movement. Esports fit in those categories, but as this article concludes it may or may not be enough for the gatekeepers. Talking about sports, esports, physical movement and violence, let’s look at another school club that could carry a stigma for little physical activity and potentially unsafe outcomes. Olympic Shooting clubs are similar to esports clubs. Which of these two activities promotes violence? Which of these two requires little physical movement or physical training? In one of them you aim and squeeze a trigger, and in the other you aim and squeeze a trigger. The answer is that neither is proven to be connected to violence, and both at highly competitive levels require mental and physical training to be the best. There are 5,000 high school and college gun clubs in the US and the benefits taught are safety, discipline, camaraderie and mental focus. Sound like another school club? When it comes to a health component, the organization USA Shooting has mental and physical training regimens and many esports clubs and pro organizations require exercise for stamina, endurance, flexibility and strength.
Are there any mental health benefits to video games?
A groundbreaking new study says time spent playing video games can be good for your well-being. The study suggests that experiences of competence and social connection with others through play may contribute to people’s well-being. Research shows that video game play can improve basic mental abilities. Improvements in basic visual process, attention, vigilance, executive functions and job-related skills are some of the points made in this research. A Scientific Reports study concluded that expert action video game players marked improvement in their cognitive functions, motor control and overall perception.
Video gaming as a child is related to improvements in memory. A new study exploring the link between video games and cognition finds that playing video games as a child can improve a person’s working memory years later on specific tasks. Playing high-action video games may speed up learning. Those who play action video games learned new sensory-motor skills faster than nonplayers did. Playing video games shows no association with depression. It is argued that playing video games is among the most effective means by which adolescents generate positive feelings. This study shows playing video games is not associated with depression in teens compared to screen time with TV, social media and regular computer use.
I hope that this blog and the previous one have driven home the benefits of playing esports beginning at a young age. Your student can increase their GPA and SEL skills, enjoy fewer days absent from school, feel a part of something larger and perhaps even land a choice college scholarship! Now’s the time for your student to jump into the arena and level up!
The Varsity Esports Foundation is a non-profit that strives to increase literacy around esports and how to be proactive with such initiatives as healthy lifestyles, curriculum, mental health, diversity and inclusion, toxicity, addictions, suicide prevention, internet safety, and belonging through STEM education and digital citizenship.
VEF was founded in 2017, when Bubba Gaeddert dove deep into the esports industry through streaming and marketing, coming to realize that students in disenfranchised low-income areas did not have the same access as students in the suburbs. With this realization, he partnered with many esports organizations to create this foundation.