Essentials of an Esports Program
Once considered just a hobby, video games have become a valuable educational tool that schools are now eager to implement in the form of esports, or competitive gaming.
So why should you consider building an esports program? How can it benefit your school?
It’s critical to consider the reason behind your decision to add esports to the curriculum. This helps you determine the scope and direction, which will inform your choices regarding the hardware, software, and other essentials necessary to build a robust esports program.
Tools of the Trade
Educators unfamiliar with the esports world may be overwhelmed where to start — equipment, furniture, network. While gaming requires a certain amount of infrastructure, it really can be as simple as a PC and a gaming headset. Depending on the level and focus you want for your esports program, you can add on from there, with monitors and keyboards optimized for gaming and ergonomic chairs for players sitting for extended periods.
Let’s start with the computer, which is the most critical element. There are many options. Laptops are portable and ideal for transporting to tournaments or even in a remote or hybrid environment where students learn from home at least part of the time. Desktops work well for gamers who intend to play in the same physical space and are often easier to upgrade and cheaper than laptops offering similar performance. Either way, you’ll want to consider the components that make for a great gaming PC, including:
- Graphics card with 8GB video RAM (VRAM)
- High-speed CPU
- Efficient cooling system
- High-quality display
While a basic gaming system can run upwards of a thousand dollars, schools can utilize the computers for other academic purposes as well. For example, science classes can run virtual reality lab simulations on the PCs used by the esports club, making the investment more cost-effective. Students can also learn how to manage the hardware and perform their own upgrades, providing additional cost savings.
Silver Linings of Esports and Remote Learning
While many schools have had to limit participation in extracurricular activities due to the pandemic, esports has benefited from this shift. Competitions occur online, so there’s no disruption when students participate from home. Parents are now more involved in their child’s education because it’s happening right in front of them, so they can see the benefits of esports firsthand. This helps build familial bonds and can further positively affect the student’s future.
The general stigma around esports as a ‘waste of time’ or ‘distraction from schoolwork and traditional socializing’ is changing as educators realize how competitive gaming can help students level up their learning. “When we as influencers of students take a step back and we look at something like esports that students are highly engaged in, and when we use esports as a learning tool and a funnel to bring students into a higher level of learning, just as we use traditional activities, we’ll begin to see the positive outcomes,” says Ryan Shuttlesworth, the National Esports Business Development Manager for ASUS. Ryan believes it’s easier to justify the costs associated with starting an esports program because it captivates students and will motivate them to succeed academically.
This is even more crucial in remote learning scenarios when students may struggle to stay connected to their school. Esports can be the bridge that helps them maintain a sense of normalcy in a challenging situation.
Esports: Beyond Gaming
The coronavirus pandemic of 2020 has proven that esports is here to stay. It’s an excellent match for remote learning and works well in a traditional in-person school model. It also has potential educational and social benefits for students that can transcend K-12 education.
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About the Author
Ashley Wallinger is a content marketing specialist at Trox. She began her career in broadcast journalism, working as a producer at two TV stations, where she created content for news broadcasts and digital platforms. She has since held roles as a digital copywriter for a marketing agency, as well as a social media specialist overseeing content creation and analytics for the Scottsdale Unified School District in Scottsdale, Arizona. Her background and profile can be found on LinkedIn.