Esports are a hot topic right now, and for good reason. Research suggests that the value of the global esports market was valued at $970 million in revenue in 2020, with projections that this value will more than double by 2025 and reach a total market value of $2.89 billion.
Clearly there’s a growing appetite for esports in mainstream circles. Competitive games like League of Legends or StarCraft 2 pull in millions of viewers during big events, and the popularity of these activities continues to increase. The International Esports Federation (IESF) has 123 member federations across the globe, and the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) recently approved esports to be an official event in the 2022 Asian Games.
While the esports industry was born of video games, it has the potential to be an impactful education tool. There are numerous opportunities to incorporate these concepts within the K-12 environment, and several beneficial reasons for doing so.
The Top Benefits of Initiating esports Programs
It’s no surprise that many higher-ed institutions have embraced esports. Over 175 colleges and universities have recognized varsity esports programs, complete with coaches and partial or full-ride scholarships. These schools acknowledge esports as varsity-level athletic programs like conventional sports. For K-12 students this could unlock opportunities for higher education just like traditional sports do.
Introduction to New Careers
Esports introduce students to a world of opportunities they may not have considered on their own. There are many STEM fields that overlap with esports, from game design to computer programming to hardware engineering.
These days, esports teams also manage a large amount of self-promotion on social media, which supports valuable skills in marketing and brand management. In general, the space builds on a large number of digital literacy skills and can prepare students for in-demand tech-centric careers.
Exposure to esports is particularly important during K-12 years as students develop their interests and strengths, and explore the viability of different career options. Esports offer a different and engaging avenue into STEM outside of traditional educational pathways.
Like many traditional sports, esports tap into both physical and mental ability. They require participants to engage in demanding cognitive tasks driven by high levels of manual dexterity and coordination. In fact, research shows that long-term game playing can improve brain development in several key areas:
- Spatial orientation
- Fine motor skills
- Memory formation
- Strategic planning
Esports programs typically go beyond basic video gaming to challenge players to work strategically, which facilitates better development across the board. Esports provide an avenue to develop these essential skills early in a student’s development.
Build a Sense of Community
Similar to conventional sports, esports can foster beneficial connections between participants and their communities. Esports offer a new avenue to facilitate human connection that extends beyond their immediate community: in a carefully monitored and secure school environment, they can meet students across the world.
The world of esports can give K-12 students a way to connect with others who share their interests and create a platform for their natural talents and practiced skills. This grants them new ways to earn the recognition of their peers and build confidence. K-12 students who don’t fit conventional achievement models of athletics or academics may fail to develop these benefits on their own, but esports creates equity by giving these students a chance to succeed under a different paradigm.
What Do Schools Need to Adopt an Esports Program?
The first step in developing an esports program is to create an action plan that considers three primary steps:
- Acquiring hardware and technology
- Integrating with esports member organizations
- Creating incentives to encourage and maintain student interest
Hardware, Networking Components, and Technology
While specific hardware and computing requirements will depend on which games are played, several big-picture items will be mainstays of any esports program: laptops versus desktops, monitors and display options, ethernet cabling or Wi-Fi, and headsets and peripheries.
The up-front costs of the technology can be off-putting to some, but in the right environment the benefits outweigh the initial investment. Students will need high-performance computers, low-latency internet, and precision gaming hardware to be able to grow their skills and compete. The proper equipment is necessary to entice and engage students. Vendors that offer personalized EdTech solutions can leverage partnerships with key technology providers to offer more competitive pricing than schools would find on their own. Vendors can also help create a technology deployment plan.
Work With a Trusted Partner
Schools that establish themselves early in the esports space will have more time to build their credentials and more chances to create their own partnerships and opportunities. We’re a proud partner of HP, providing educators and students with devices that are optimized and secured to make the learning experience exciting and engaging. Contact us to learn how our EdTech solutions can develop esport opportunities for your students today.