Benefits of Esports for Students and Schools
Unless you have an avid gamer in the family, you may not be aware that esports, or competitive gaming, has become an officially sanctioned high school and collegiate sport. Less than 4 years ago, the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) first recognized esports as an official sport. Since then, more than 8,600 high schools have started esports teams. Esports rapid rise in popularity comes as no surprise as about 90% of teenagers play video games.
It may sound surreal, but improved mental health, increased student engagement, full-ride college scholarships, and new careers are just a few of the benefits that esports brings to students and schools. At IFS, we have recently helped schools explore the esports technology space and educated ourselves on why esports is booming.
Why Esports Belong in our Schools
Competitive gaming is a billion-dollar business with more than 300 million fans worldwide. The exploding industry has found its way to becoming a permanent fixture at college and high school campuses across the country. People question whether esports programs are good for students and schools, but experience shows there are many benefits for all involved.
The Benefits of Esports for Schools
One of the most valuable benefits that schools gain from offering esports is additional exposure. Take, for example, Ottawa University, a small liberal arts college in Ottawa, Kansas. Like many other schools, Ottawa University has found that it can leverage its esports program as a recruitment tool. While some schools start up their esports team in an existing computer lab, Ottawa University completely renovated a 1900s theater building into a fully equipped arena, with a state-of-the-art video production system and broadcasting capabilities to host tournaments. They utilized the IFS solution to acquire innovative gaming equipment and put themselves on the map as a desirable esports school while attracting a new, wider audience of potential student applicants.
New Programs and Degrees:
Esports has led some colleges and universities to create new educational programs, degrees, and continuing education courses in video game design, esports management, and entrepreneurship. George Mason University is now offering a minor in Sport and Computer Game Design, which provides students with a foundational overview of the sports industry, the sport management academic discipline, and computer game design. UC Davis Continuing and Professional Education offers an esports management “Specialized Studies Program” to prepares students to turn a passion for gaming into a career. As esports programs continue to expand, we expect to see more colleges and universities add new courses, programs, and degrees.
Improved Graduation Rates:
Students in extracurricular activities, including esports, traditional sports, or school clubs, are typically more successful. These students have greater attendance, better focus in class, stronger test scores, and even higher graduation rates. Those that participate in extracurricular activities in high school are more apt to go on to higher education. Esports is no exception. The involvement, teamwork, and engagement help high schools and colleges increase the number of graduates.
Increased academic and social engagement:
While it may seem counterintuitive, online gaming in the form of esports teams encourages social skills. Social engagement is closely linked to academic engagement and being part of an esports team can offer students the social tools and motivation needed to channel skills into academic performance. Moreover, the requirement to maintain grade levels to participate in esports is motivating to students that are eager to be on a team.
Greater Student Involvement:
Esports is attractive to students that may not participate in a traditional sports or other school activities. McAllen Independent School District partnered with IFS to develop an esports team for the high school and plans for an addition of technology to support the middle and elementary school programs. The district holds tournaments that are popular and engaging. The students say that the program and events provide a supportive environment that encourages student involvement. More student involvement and participation means better results for schools.
Fosters an Interest in STEM Programs:
Esports taps into skills that are highly valued in the technology industry, making it a prime driver for careers in STEM and entrepreneurship. It has long been debated whether video games can encourage interest in science and technology, but the advent of esports in schools provides the opportunity to make those connections. Systematic thinking and problem-solving are key skills in STEM fields that are also heavily relied on for success in esports. Colleges and universities understand those ties and are looking at esports as a way to encourage students to consider STEM in their studies.
Benefits of esports for students
Develop Better Social and Behavioral Skills:
Students that are part of a school team develop better social and behavioral skills that will serve them well in all aspects of their lives. The competition and teamwork provide bonding opportunities and esports teams will learn to overcome obstacles and communicate effectively. These skills help students become better learners and problem solvers that help them get along well with other students and perform better in classes.
Hone Skills for Learning:
Gamers gain useful skills from participating in esports that help them on a broader learning journey. Analytical problem solving, time management, collaboration, and teamwork are key. Video games can also help to improve visual perception, enhance memory, and lead to better focus and attention. All these learned skills help students to produce better results in learning environments.
Exploration of STEM concepts and career paths:
Just as esports helps schools to promote STEM courses, it helps students to consider STEM career paths. There is a natural synergy between gaming and STEM, where students can apply their skills to discover the areas that interest them most. Students may find careers in the technology end of video games or create a path to other STEM related careers such as computer science, research, or medicine. The future will rely on technology and even healthcare is now using virtual gaming experiences to help rehabilitate certain conditions. For students, esports can be the gateway to the exciting and emerging careers.
Fostering an Interest in the Gaming Industry:
According to a recent report, the global esports industry is expected to generate $4.75 billion by 2030.
With experience on an esports team, students can also get a glimpse of the rapidly growing gaming industry and learn more about the wide range of opportunities for potential future involvement. They may be surprised to learn that there are more careers in esports than just gaming and video game design. Like other professional leagues, esports organizations offer jobs in sales, management, event planning, media, and more. Esports can open the eyes of students to many new possibilities.
New Scholarship Opportunities:
Many colleges and universities with varsity esports teams offer scholarships for gamers. While most are partial scholarships that range from $500 to $8,000 per year, some schools are starting to offer full-tuition, and even full-ride scholarships. This gives students new opportunities to help fund their college education.
Mental Health Benefits
It’s also important to consider the mental health benefits of esports. The social dynamic and camaraderie of esports teams can reduce depression and the games can be reduce stress, improve memory, and support critical thinking. Ultimately, the relationships formed and skills achieved have a positive impact on long term mental health.
Inclusion for students in community:
Independent online gaming can be a very isolating activity, even when interacting with others digitally. Passionate gamers without a team or community can feel left out of mainstream school social life. Esports brings individual gamers together in one space and on one team, to create a community and social network. Joining school activities creates a feeling of belonging that supports physical and mental health.
How to build a predictable budget for your esports program
When considering an esports program, one of the first steps is to take stock of the available budget and create a strategy to maximize it. The facilities, venues, and technology required to offer an esports team are expensive. At Insight Financial Services, we understand the needs of esports programs and how to help build a sustainable refresh program that can be beneficial. IFS has extensive experience with EdTech leasing and will create a solution that works for the unique needs of your school or university.