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Why are esports becoming more popular in schools?

Esports teams are a growing trend in high schools across the country.

What are esports? For those who are unfamiliar, esports are organized video game competitions that are typically played between professional gamers.

However, its popularity has led to the formation of amateur and school-based teams as well. High school esports is one of the fastest-growing segments of the esports industry.

There are many reasons why high schools should start esports teams. Here are a few!

Why we count on video games

First off, video games are just exciting; one of the reasons that we at STEM Forged have leaned so heavily into video games is because it makes it much easier for kids to hop in comfortably and be excited about what they're doing. At a very basic level, kids just enjoy games. In the past few years, kids have gone from just playing, to watching these games on streams and broadcasts. This is familiar for anybody who grew up with siblings that played video games; you either played together (and argued about screen-peeking) or you watched as your older sibling played through a single-player game. Or maybe you had a younger sibling that would watch and comment and cheer you on as you played and explored a world or journeyed through a story. It doesn't take playing a game to enjoy it.

The shift from local to global

With the rise of online gaming where players can connect with more than just two players in their neighborhood, there's a natural rise in skill level because players can test themselves with a larger player base, and the competitive nature of video games appeals to casual and competitive players alike. It's also many times easier to arrange a tournament between gamers who are connecting online than with any other sport - there are no geographical limitations (or travel expenses). Along with these youth and young adults who have grown up enjoying playing these games locally, now there's the ability to connect with others all over the country and the world.

Answering the call of competition

Just like any other competitive event like football, lacrosse, chess, spelling bees, the Olympics, hotdog eating, etc., people are excited to view competition between the elite in that field. This especially applies to esports; so much so that the League of Legends World Championship had more viewers than the Super Bowl in 2018. Now some people might think that this is crazy; a lot of people are surprised that this many people will just watch somebody else playing a video game. But it's not just watching other people play, it's seeing elite players compete at the highest competitive level. It's the same for all professional sports leagues.

The reason esports is able to grow so quickly in viewership is the same reason it's so easy to connect players with one another. Everything being online means that it's pretty instantly streamable, and for a generation that has grown up with access to things like YouTube and twitch, it's a pretty natural progression to take youth's favorite pastime and stream it.

It's more than just interest in video games

It's not just the interest of young people that is driving esports in schools, it's also the recognition of esports In college. There is around 15 million dollars worth of scholarships being awarded for esports. Some people might ask, "how is esports different than other Collegiate or professional sports?" or, "why would a college be willing to invest money into starting an esports program, funding scholarships, or investing in an arena?" Well, why would they invest in a football stadium? A basketball court? All spectator sports, from an organizational standpoint, only have value if it has viewership. Yes, the students and the athletes gain personal character-building qualities through participating, but the organizations that are hosting and participating in the sports leagues can only continue doing so with the support of the interested viewers. And with esports having the fastest and largest viewership, it's an obvious next step to create official esports competitive programs. Esports might be the ultimate spectator sport!

Universities acquiring esports talent

In an interview with Dr. Haskell from Boise State University, he said that Boise State University is seeing a transition from recruiting esports athletes out of the woodwork to finding them from high school organizations. This means that esports is following the framework of other collegiate sports programs, with high schools following suit, and middle schools not far behind.

Esports benefits

Besides all of the logistical reasons why esports is growing so rapidly in schools, schools are starting to recognize what they can achieve by providing a structured esports program to their students. There are plenty of benefits that come with playing esports. For one, it helps students develop social skills and teamwork since most esports require players to cooperate with one another to win. It also encourages strategic thinking and problem-solving as players have to think several steps ahead in order to outsmart their opponents. Many claims about esports benefits have focused on how esports can help improve hand-eye coordination, motor skills, and reaction time, which are all important for daily life, but not nearly as important as how playing esports gives students a sense of belonging and community as they bond with others who share the same interests.

A word of warning

What we have seen in many instances is how schools are joining this growing trend and they're excited that they could potentially achieve the same learning objectives, engagement levels, or outreach to underserved student demographics through esports programs. What they end up doing in some cases is moving forward with their own program or club right away. This is awesome, and these teachers and administrators are forward-thinking, innovative, and ready to meet these kids at their level; but they will set themselves up for failure by creating an esports program without full knowledge of where to take it, how to start it, and how to set the correct expectations for their students. Creating a program without the right plan can create an environment where toxic competitiveness can take root. This directly undermines why the schools want to start these programs in the first place. The single most important thing for any new esports program is to establish a purpose, goals, and expectations.

It's pretty clear now that there is great potential for good with an esports program in high schools and middle schools. But what you have to consider is that esports is like gasoline; when ignited without structure or purpose it can be dangerous, but when used within a tuned machine it can give kids the horsepower they need to propel themselves into successful futures.

In summary, esports is becoming popular in schools because it has the potential to bring in large audiences, it provides a structure for high-level competition, and it gives students a sense of belonging and community. However, it is important for schools to establish a purpose, goals, and expectations for their esports programs before moving forward.

If you are looking to get an esports program in your school, look no further than STEM Forged. Book a demo today!

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