Esports is the most inclusive, diverse, and engaging activity in the world. People of every ethnic background, color, gender, and age are engaged in the esports ecosystem. Esports draws in those who have never participated in any other extra-curricular activity, not a sport, not theater, not dance, or even a spelling bee. Nearly 90% of the students involved in esports have never participated in any other school activity. Why? Because all of these require students to be in front of others, with the focus on them and are geared to extraverted individuals.
Esports fits the thousands of students who are introverted, those who are amazingly intelligent and gifted but are recharged and excel by being alone. Esports allows students who are introverted, neurodivergent, often thought of as an outcast or different, to shine! I speak from personal experience when I share that 43% of our esports students are neurodivergent. They deal with things like dyslexia, autism, ADHD, anxiety, and depression every day. These are “mental health” issues that are real and can be debilitating for some students. However, put them in a dark room, with a headset on, and a game in front of them, and their symptoms dissipate, and they become the leaders they were always meant to be, they just needed to find their space and their tribe.
I know, you’re thinking, “But I don’t want my kids to sit in front of a screen any longer than they need to.” I thought that too. I was that mom, the one that used video games and gaming as a reward or punishment for school achievement. No gaming during the week, only on the weekend, school must come first. But what if playing that video game is exactly what your kid needs to succeed in school? Had I known then, what I know now, I’d have sung a very different tune.
Here's the reality of esports and scholastic gaming. Kids need it to thrive and survive. Organized esports is changing the lives of students across the world? Esports incorporates social emotional learning, teamwork, collaboration, communication, cooperation, strategic planning, hard work, determination, and grit. Employers say that what is missing in today’s entry-level workforce are the exact soft skills that esports teaches students every day.
Students can graduate top of their class from a top-tier D1 college and possess zero experience working cooperatively and strategically down in the trenches. This is not the case for esports students. They have thousands of hours of trudging through those trenches. They won some. They lost some, but they persevered and came out on the other side stronger than ever. In addition, they are now eager to go to school, have improved school attendance, and their grades tend to improve due to “playing video games.” Student academic success can be tied directly to esports involvement.
Now you say, “Yeah, but they can’t play video games forever. Eventually, they’re going to need to grow up and get a real job.” There are all kinds of “REAL” jobs in esports. I facilitate one of the most comprehensive K-12 scholastic esports programs in the United States. I absolutely see, know, and understand the exceptional value found within.
If you still need some convincing, let’s look at some of the employable benefits of “playing a video game” and what actually goes into the planning of and execution of an esports event. Every event needs a plan, an arena or room to play in, devices to play on, lighting, sound equipment, promotion of the event, and money to operate. These needs are all connected to high-paying careers like event planning, arena managers, purchasers, lighting technicians, sound engineers, event promoters, advertisers, and social media managers. Teams need a coach or manager, athletes get injured physically, team members have intense mental focus and decision-making skills. Esports athletes need exercise, sleep, and a well-balanced diet to perform at their optimal capacity. Other high-paying careers attached to esports include: team owners and managers or collegiate and professional coaches, athletic trainers and team doctors, nutritionists, psychologists and therapists for mental preparation. On the day of the event, there will be shoutcasters, event producers, commentators, program managers, network engineers, and technology specialists to make sure the gaming gear runs optimally.
Esports offers the level playing field that all students need. There is something for everyone. So, the next time you see your kids sitting in front of the family television or on their computers, don’t just chastise them like I did. Lean in, ask them what they enjoy about “playing video games.” Discover the “why” behind their obsession, and you might just uncover the next Michael Jordan of esports!
Julie Mavrogeorge is the current 2022 NAECAD (National Association of Esports Coaches and Directors) High School Director of the Year. She also is the Esports Coordinator of FUeL (Fresno Unified esports League) in Fresno, CA. She is a Generation Esports Ambassador, an i2e (insight2execution) Professional Learning Specialist specializing in Esports and Minecraft Esports, and has been featured on CDW’s Focus on Edu, and is a presenter on various esports topics at ISTE, FETC, and TCEA.