While Esports may be a young industry, it is a flourishing one that’s been shown to develop both academic and social skills in high school and college students throughout the country. The old stereotype that video game players are anti-social has been proven to be false, as studies and anecdotal evidence are finding that participation in video games, particularly competitive Esports, helps kids with collaboration, strategic thinking, and sportsmanship. The development of those skills increases kids’ self-confidence, which leads to better academic outcomes.
With more than 90 percent of American teens playing video games on a gaming console or cell phone, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey, the time has come for parents to shift their approach to video games and embrace the benefits they offer.
So, What Are the Benefits of Esports?
Educators have long known that student participation in extracurricular activities boosts student success. Students who participate in sports or clubs at school miss less school, graduate at a higher rate and engage in fewer harmful behaviors, like drinking and smoking. All students should be given the opportunity to gain the knowledge and skills they need to be not only talented gamers, but societal game-changers: educated, empathic, and productive individuals. Though kids of all ages may show a propensity towards—and talent—for video gaming, high school is usually the time when it becomes more than a hobby. There are many positive aspects to gaming, including leveraging it for youth engagement in STEM interests as well as social-emotional learning.
Below are a few of the examples of how Esports can be of benefit for young people in developing their social skills:
Traditional extracurricular sports are not always accessible to all students. Sometimes students are too introverted to even consider trying out for the team. Other students may not physically be able to participate or compete on the playing field. Esports offer another avenue for kids to explore their passions and grow their skills, as well as their confidence. Organized sports have been a highlight of the school social experience for decades, while gamers have in the past felt like outcasts. When middle and high schools offer an organized Esports program, passionate gamers learn that they are accepted and respected members of the school community. Video games also play an important role in the creation and maintenance of teen friendships, which means Esports can help students develop a network of peer support.
The ability to work as part of a team is necessary to succeed in many environments, from college courses to professional jobs. Most Esports are played as a team, meaning that every game requires students to work collaboratively with their teammates to accomplish a shared goal. Students learn that strong communication skills often lead to winning in the game.
Every game played results in either a win or a loss. Just like traditional sports, Esports teaches kids important life lessons like good sportsmanship. Especially as they have entered the mainstream of culture, Esports has developed a strict code of conduct that demands good manners and respect from all players involved in a game. Players may not be able to shake hands after a match, but they’re still expected to win and lose with grace.
Studies have shown that strategic thinkers are among the most highly effective leaders. Esports are a great way to develop these skills; in fact, games like League of Legends and Overwatch are often referred to as “strategy games.” Online games require players to analyze and respond to the constantly changing conditions of play and map out a game plan to achieve victory. The sometimes rapid pace of the games requires players to make quick decisions. Those decision-making and other critical-thinking skills can be applied outside of the game.
With the exploding popularity of Esports among young people, it is important for parents to understand the benefits it can provide. While too much of anything can always be dangerous, an understanding and appreciation of the benefits of gaming can be very helpful to parents and their children. Building social skills through gaming can be an extremely rewarding (and fun) experience that allows middle and high school-aged children to gain valuable skills for their future.