The burgeoning world of eSports is on the brink of becoming fully embraced by the mainstream, with support from football clubs, the backing of organisations like the British eSports Association, and investment from entrepreneurs like Tej Kohli. eSports clearly has a bright future, but might that future involve a place in schools as well? Here, we take a look at the role that eSports may play in transforming the field of education.
The Rise of eSports
From its origins as a niche pursuit in South Korea at the dawn of the century, eSports has risen to become one of the world’s fastest growing industries – and that growth has been nothing if not phenomenal.
Last year, the global audience for eSports stood at 385 million, and this is only expected to rise – to around 589 million by 2020. In 2018, the industry is predicted to produce revenues of a staggering $905 million, and there are increasing calls for it to not only be recognised as a competitive sport, but to be featured at the Olympics as well. But could it even have a place in the field of education?
The Case for eSports in Education
Crucially, the current demographic for eSports is young – primarily between 13 and 24. There has already been a rise in the number of academic establishments around the world running courses on the more technical side of eSports – it is, after all, a rapidly growing industry with an ever-expanding pool of jobs and careers that need to be filled by people with the right expertise.
Now, however, more and more education institutions are turning to another question – could eSports actually be used to improve the learning capabilities of children? In an article for the Education Technology online magazine, Ricky Jennings of Fast Web Media made the case for the developmental benefits of eSports, suggesting that in the right environment, and with the right structures in place, it could help improve teamwork, communication, work ethic and even self-confidence.
It has long been recognised that physical, traditional sports in schools have advantages beyond the health benefits – and eSports may capture the attention of pupils less enthused by more traditional PE lessons.
This is not the first time that schools have explored the benefits of certain video games. Over the last few years, a number of schools have found the sandbox building game Minecraft to be a useful tool for promoting creative thinking, problem solving and collaboration.
In fact, the British eSports Association even has a Head of Education – an experienced teacher and educator named Tom Dore, who is encouraging schools around the country to begin setting up their own eSports leagues, just as several high-profile football clubs have done.
From the classrooms of our schools to the world stage of the Olympics, not to mention the vast conventions that already exist to exhibit the industry’s stars, the world of eSports looks set to go from strength to strength in the coming years. Educators, and the institutions they work for, should therefore be looking at ways to utilise this new field to engage and inspire students, instead of viewing it as a competitor for the attention of young people.