One of the more unusual items in my educational CV is esports coach*. I helped to get an esports club off the ground in the high school I worked in Virginia. eSports to the noob is online video game competitions played professionally, in 3rd level universities and increasing in secondary schools, predominantly in the US, Asia, and more recently in the UK. One tweet I read recently “esports isn’t the ‘next big thing,’ it’s the current big thing”.
2020 has seen huge gains for competitive gaming in education. US High schools are upgrading gaming clubs into competitive teams and playing in high school leagues. Virginia High School League (VSHL) organises High School sport in Virginia sanctioned an esports league in 2020 and was one of the few sports that avoided a lockdown. One of the best things about esports, however, is how accessible it is. Esports tend to draw students uninterested in traditional sports, including those who may have learning disabilities, physical handicaps, or be on the spectrum. Esports are popular with all demographics within a school. In esports, female players compete on equal terms with their male counterparts.
College and universities all over the world are getting on board as well. Currently, competitive esports are on the rise at both the high school and collegiate levels with scholarships being offered. Several hundred esports scholarships will be offered at universities in the 2020-202 school year, mainly in the US. Universities are building custom esports labs for their new gaming teams.
The world of e-sports is making its mark in Ireland with 22pc of Irish adults watching or participating in competitive video gaming with higher percentages in their teenage years. Irish software research centre, Lero, has opened Ireland’s first esports research lab in its University of Limerick (UL) headquarters.
Youth are gaming in record numbers, and the kids will what to do what they love in a positive environment with guidance from team coaches and peer mentors. At some stage, there will be a need to facilitate school of esports competitions in Ireland.
In a later post, I will go into a bit more detail on the future of esports and possible future steps.
*or as one of my colleagues called it “the poor schmuck who got caught to supervise a gang of seniors playing Fortnite” 😉