The world of education has always been shaped by innovation, adapting to the changing needs and interests of students. In recent years, a unique and captivating phenomenon has emerged, merging the love for gaming with the pursuit of knowledge – esports in education. Esports, short for electronic sports, involves competitive gaming, and it has rapidly gained popularity worldwide, not only in the realm of entertainment but also in the educational landscape. Esports in education is catching on as the popularity of esports continues to grow. For example, competitive gaming has become a billion-dollar business and is projected to grow exponentially. The prevalence of esports in education is likewise rapidly expanding.

esports in education

The High School Esports League (HSEL) – just one of several such leagues – claims over 6,000 schools as members, $600,000 given out in scholarships, and over 50,000 students competing. The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), the national leader and advocate for high school athletics, as an exclusive partnership with PlayVS to bring esports to high schools nationwide. So, what exactly is the impact of esports in education? Keep reading below as we take a deep dive into the benefits and challenges of esports in education, and what the future of esports in education looks like.

 The Intersection of Gaming and Learning

Taking part in extracurricular activities, whether it be baseball or science club, has been shown to boost student success. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), students who participate in extracurricular activities are shown to miss less school, have higher graduation rates, score better in math and reading, and have a higher aspiration to move on to higher education. Additionally, according to an article by the NFHS, students that join activities are more likely to pay attention in class, care more about their education, have high self-esteem, and engage in fewer harmful behaviors such as drinking and smoking.

Just like your typical extracurricular activities, esports has become more than just a pastime for students. Esports has evolved into a viable platform for developing crucial skills and fostering a sense of community. The strategic thinking, problem-solving, and teamwork required in competitive gaming align closely with the 21st-century skills sought by educators today. Esports in education can provide students with practical opportunities to apply their critical thinking abilities, enhance their communication and collaboration skills, and hone their decision-making capabilities – all within an environment they are genuinely passionate about.

Benefits of Esports in Education

Here are the top five benefits of esports in education:

  1. Engaging and Inclusive Learning Environment: When students can join a school esports team, it becomes a social experience. Without a school esports club, passionate gamers often feel left out of mainstream school social life. Organized esports bring these kids into the fold. It can help them become accepted and respected members of their school community. Esports creates an engaging and inclusive atmosphere where students from diverse backgrounds can connect and collaborate. It transcends the traditional barriers of age, gender, and physical abilities, allowing a broader range of students to participate and excel.
  1. Enhancing STEM Education: Esports is not just about gameplay; it involves the technology and infrastructure supporting it. Students who are drawn to gaming are often equally captivated by the broader technology ecosystem. Sponsors at both the high school and college levels report that a substantial number of their esports participants are interested in science, technology, engineering, and math. Schools are integrating esports into their curriculum to introduce students to STEM fields, such as game design, coding, data analysis, and computer networking, making learning these subjects more exciting and relevant.
  1. Encouraging Leadership and Teamwork: Successful esports teams rely heavily on effective leadership and teamwork. Students involved in esports learn to delegate responsibilities, communicate effectively, and develop a strong work ethic, essential skills that will serve them well in their future endeavors.
  1. Scholarships and Career Opportunities: Esports is not only a recreational activity; it has grown into a lucrative professional field. Many colleges and universities now offer esports scholarships, providing talented gamers with the chance to continue their education while pursuing their passion for gaming. The National Associate of Collegiate Esports (NACE) has over 240 member schools that offer $16 million in esports scholarships and aid. Additionally, students involved in esports are a natural fit for careers in STEM, which are projected to offer some of the best employment opportunities for today’s students. They also have the option to pursue a career in esports professionally – as of 2023, the esports market is valued at $1.44 billion (and this number is projected to reach $5.48 billion by 2029).
  1. Students Learn Valuable Skills: Just like traditional team sports teach valuable skills, so does esports in education. These skills include teamwork and collaboration, social skills, strategic thinking and planning, managing success and failure, time management, and pro-social values such as good sportsmanship, fairness, respect, persistence, honesty, and healthy competition.

Considerations for Esports in Education

While esports in education offers numerous benefits, it is essential to address potential challenges:

  • Balancing Academics and Gaming: Striking a balance between academics and esports can be a concern. It is crucial for educators and parents to emphasize the importance of maintaining academic performance while engaging in esports activities.
  • Health and Wellness: Prolonged screen time and sedentary gaming can impact students’ health. It is essential to promote physical activity, regular breaks, and healthy habits to ensure students’ overall well-being.
  • Addressing Stigma: Some individuals may still perceive gaming as a frivolous or time-wasting activity. It is necessary to advocate for the educational value of esports and highlight the skills students develop through it.

The Future of Esports in Education

The future of esports in education is bright and promising! As technology continues to advance, the integration of virtual and augmented reality may further enhance the educational potential of esports. Additionally, we can expect to see an expansion in the number of schools and colleges that are going to offer and participate in formalized esports programs within their schools and on a national level. By embracing gaming as a viable educational tool, educators can tap into students’ passions, cultivate vital skills, and create a more inclusive learning environment. As we move forward, there is incredible potential of esports in education to shape a brighter future for students.

Interested in learning more about esports in education? Check out our recorded webinar Esports in Education Overview.