Why esports could be coming to your school

Video gaming and education are usually seen as being at odds with each other, but new efforts are being made to incorporate esports into some very forward-thinking schools. Whilst playing video games often came at the expense of doing homework, several high school organisations have been established to help young gamers enjoy competitive gaming in a way that’s safe, fun and could lead to a fully fledged professional gaming career.

Recently the National Federation of State High School Associations teamed up with the PlayVS online gaming resource to help youngsters in US schools take part in an online gaming competition that covers five states across the nation.

It’s hoped that this project will cater to the undeniable thirst for competitive gaming in a safe environment, but also boost qualities of teamwork and cooperation that are essential skills for playing esports. But does this mean that your LoL gaming is going to become overly sanitised, or does it just show that esports is well on it’s way to becoming accepted as a traditional sporting activity?

All about the new school esports initiative

As competitive gaming is now a huge global phenomenon, it was only a matter of time before schools started taking an interest in esports. The partnership between the National Federation of State High Schools Associations and PlayVS will launch a League of Legends tournament between different schools that will run throughout a Season Zero from October 30 and December 11.

After the regular season, the state championship play-offs will be played in front of spectators and will be streamed live via the NFHS network between 8 and 29 January. At the moment only the states of Connecticut, Georgia, Kentucky, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island will be taking part, but the project expected to spread across further states when the next season starts in February 2019.

It’s thought that 72% of American teenagers now play video games regularly, and it’s hoped that this new project could be a good way to encourage students to engage in after-schools activities. Whilst traditional sports have been the standard way to engage with youngsters, for those who aren’t athletically inclined, esports represents a relatively cost-effective way to help boost teamwork and cooperation with their classmates.

In addition to this, it’s thought that well over 200 colleges in the US and Canada now offer scholarships for esports, and it’s hoped that this nurturing environment could assist in building valuable life skills through competitive gaming.

Why this project could supercharge esports in the USA

As the PlayVS tournament is open to 19,500 high schools from 15 states in the US, it’s clear that it could significantly boost the popularity of esports across the nation. And with over $15 million in funding from the likes of Twitch.tv and the San Francisco 49ers American football team, it’s hoped that it can bring a new generation of gaming talent to the US.

Competitive gaming is growing rapidly with 400 million fans worldwide, and with the industry expected to hit £1.5 billion in revenues by 2020, there have been frantic attempts by businesses and institutions to understand and take advantage this gaming phenomenon.


© John J. Kim | Chicago Tribune

However, it’s the lack of regulation over many esports tournaments that has meant that the activity has struggled to gain acceptance in the traditional sporting world. With a vast array of competitions and games on offer, the sheer variety of esports has proved to be impenetrable to many over age of 30. But with the National Association of Collegiate Esports putting up $9 million in esports scholarships since 2016, it’s hoped that young gamers can get assistance in turning professional, and it will also provide a smooth passage in entering a fiercely competitive domain.

Will esports become a part of standard school education?

The fact that educational organisations are now offering scholarships and after-school activities for esports illustrates a huge turnaround in the way that video gaming is perceived. Playing games had long been seen as a fairly sedentary and antisocial activity, but it has been realised that esports could actually boost many social behaviours in terms of teamwork and other important life skills.

Obviously many of the more violent esports like Counter Strike Global Offensive and Call of Duty might not be appearing in high schools anytime soon, but the fact that thousands of US students are now being encouraged to play battle arena titles like League of Legends shows just how quickly attitudes are changing towards esports.

It’s hoped that the new projects will give young gamers the tools necessary for an enjoyable start in gaming. Whilst very few of these students will be able to make it to the professional level of competitive gaming, it seems that this could signal an exciting new start for esports.

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