eSports in Schools - ANME Blog

eSports in Schools

Posted on: 25th Apr 2022 by: Gary Henderson

I have long been a fan of esports, or competitive computer gaming. As an FE teacher, I oversaw the introduction of Xboxes and then PC based competitions within a college back in the early 2000s, with Halo being the main game of choice. When I returned to secondary teaching around 2006, I had a PlayStation in my desk drawer attached to the projector, plus oversaw the setup of a number of PC real-time strategy games like Age of Empires, again, to support competitive matches internally within the school. And more recently I have been involved in Millfield joining the British Esports Association’s inter-school/college champs tournament, and arranging a smaller inter-schools tournament, trying to encourage more cross-school competition. Overall, I am very positive about the potential of esports and its benefits within schools and colleges, but why?

Esports isn’t gaming

The first thing to note is that esports and gaming are, in my eyes, two different things. Gaming is a leisure activity, something done purely for enjoyment that whiles away the time, whereas esports is competitive. At first glance this might not seem like a sufficient distinction as most online games involve competition with others, so all gaming might be considered competitive. However let’s consider football; I can play football with a group of friends, against others for leisure, or I can play competitively as part of a league, cup or other tournaments, including training, coaching, discussions of strategy and efforts to continually improve. For me, esports is that level of competition which involves the training, the preparation, the in-game strategy, and the post-game analysis and future planning.

Esports in schools: Skills development

It is this rounded cycle of pre-match, during and post, before leading into the next match, and this cycle repeated, which I see as being one of the big benefits of esports in schools. It encourages students to develop their skills in relation to communication, in terms of during the match, but also in terms of pre and post where they might need to discuss others’ strengths and weaknesses, differing opinions and views on tactics and other topics which might be difficult to discuss and require a greater degree of emotional intelligence. As such esports can, I believe, help the development of emotional intelligence in students. Additionally, within the game things are often fast and frantic, requiring cool and clear communication under pressure, another skill increasingly important in the busy, and only getting busier, world we now live in.  There is also the development of skills around planning, tactics and strategy, again increasingly important in a world where more repetitive and simple tasks and jobs are being automated, meaning job market entrants increasingly need higher-order skills and experience.

Esports is big business

We need to acknowledge the increasing size of the esports industry, which therefore represents increasing opportunities for our students, where they are prepared with the appropriate knowledge, skills, and experience. The games market in 2021 generated around $180 billion of revenue which makes for a very sizeable industry. On this basis, it only makes sense for schools to have some esports provision in place to prepare those students who might be interested in the existing and new esports opportunities which will exist when they come to leave school or college.

Suggestions

If you arent involved in esports currently I would certainly recommend it and getting involved doesn’t need to be difficult. It is easy to start small and dip your toes in before then developing the provision within your school. Like me, you might start initially with esports competitions internally within your school.  This needn’t require much more than a gaming console to get started and a little bit of time and effort in sorting out the logistics regarding getting students to register (a simple MS or Google form can help with this) then sorting out matches, and maybe some prizes, for a little tournament.

As things progress you might then decide to invest in some gaming PCs. Again, this needn’t cost the earth. When I progressed to this stage, I aligned it with normal PC replacement cycles within the school but just increased the specification of some of the computers to include dedicated graphics cards. Once at this stage, you might then consider inter-schools competition and I would definitely recommend the British esports champs tournament, which is well established and easy to get involved in.

The key for me is that the extent and size of the provision are for schools to decide. Small schools might want to keep it simple, with small internal tournaments, whereas larger colleges, where esports might be taught as a BTec, might have fully functional gaming suites, with the potential for live streaming and live audiences, along with video commentary facilities. It is therefore easy to get started, and easy to scale up as is appropriate.

Safeguarding

One of the other considerations often raised with me is that of safeguarding while online gaming. For me having esports provision allows this to be discussed with students. We need to acknowledge that students are playing games online with or without our input, therefore setting up an opportunity to discuss the issues, through esports, is only going to have a positive impact. And where students get it wrong in an esports session, as some may do, the fact students are supervised allows for this to be used as a learning opportunity, to discuss what went wrong, why it went wrong and how this might be avoided in future.

Conclusions

Students are very much interested in gaming and with this there will be many who would like to explore esports opportunities. Esports is also a massive and growing industry, and with it, there will likely be new opportunities, which our current students could fill. And there are also the skill-development benefits in relation to teamwork, communication, and collaboration, etc.

As such I believe adding esports provision is an easy win for schools. I look forward to seeing increasing numbers of schools getting involved.

 

Gary Henderson

ANME Ambassador

Director of IT at Millfield School
(also a trained teacher with 20+ years’ experience across secondary schools, further education and higher education, both in the UK and the Middle East.)

Written for Education Executive

Tags: Gary Henderson, EdExec,


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