The Future of E-Sports and Education

Esports

An e-sport competition with live audience “The International 2014” by Jakob Wells. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

By Ish Stabosz
Center for Creative Instruction & Technology
Delaware Technical Community College
Stanton Campus

I remember lazy summer days as a child, when we’d gather around the Nintendo or the computer and play video games. There wasn’t too much opportunity for multiplayer back then, so the days would usually involve us taking turns going solo while everyone else spectated.

I remember my older brother often repeating the same line: “The only thing lazier than playing video games is watching someone else play.

Admittedly, I think leisurely would have been a better word to describe those summer days, but still, my brother’s quote echoed in my mind this morning as I read an article from the New York Times with the headline Vainglory Breaks Through in E-Sports.

In a post last week, I shared some of the lessons that Vainglory has taught me about the practice of teaching and learning, so when I read this piece from the New York Times, I had to share. (If you missed my last post, you can catch up here).

In the New York Times piece, author Nick Wingfield shares several insights that made me again reflect on the impact that video games can and will have on the classroom.

First, if you didn’t realize it, competitive e-sports are a thing.

Professional teams battle head-to-head for real cash prizes. These athletes practice regularly, attract product sponsors, and, according to Wingfield, broadcast on the internet and prime-time TV for 113 million viewers.

And that audience is only likely to grow. Wingfield also shares that 1.1 billion people play games on mobile devices worldwide, according to analyst David Cole of DFC Intellligence who predicts that number is rising.

So what does this have to do with education?

Raising Hands

Everything.

If about one-seventh of the world’s population plays video games (and that’s just on mobile devices), then the concentration is likely even higher among our students, who have grown up in the mobile age.

Another way to look at it is to compare youth sports with video games.

According to the Statistic Brain Research Institute, 35 million U.S. kids age 5 – 18 play organized sports. The 2015 Sales, Demographic and Usage Data report published by the Entertainment Software Association reports that just over 40 million U.S. video gamers are under 18.

Combine those numbers with the wide-spread decline of participation in youth sports and we can start to predict the impact of video games on learners in the coming decades.

Here are a few of my thoughts on the future of e-sports and education:

Those 40 million under-18ers will be the next generation’s parents, so video games and e-sports will be valued in schools.

Serious video gamers, often a marginalized social group, will grow numerous enough to be considered normal.

Video game clubs, and even school sponsored e-sports teams, will be as standard as chess clubs and football teams.

Teachers will either find ways to meet gamers where they are or they’ll lose the attention of an entire generation to increasingly engaging and distracting e-sports.

It’s not gonna happen tomorrow, but I bet before I retire I’ll here more hype about some global e-sports competition than I will about the Super Bowl.

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