Whenever I tell people that I work in esports the response is almost always a surprising ‘Oh you play games for a living?’. It doesn’t take long to explain the enormity of the esports industry and that there are multiple career paths available, but it is interesting that this assumption exists. Even if I were a pro gamer the phrase is somewhat condescending and ignores all the skills and effort it takes to reach the level required to game at a professional level.
The stigma starts early. Kids at school play games a lot and parents start to fear that this is distracting them from traditional studies and leads to them avoiding social interaction. This can indeed happen but it is too often assumed that gaming in particular is a ‘waste of time’. The reality is that gaming, and esports in particular, can test and train many vital skills to prepare children for future careers both within the gaming industry and beyond.
UKIE’s Digital Schoolhouse Esports Tournament, open to secondary schools around the UK, is a fantastic showcase of the opportunities available within the gaming and esports industry and challenges students to develop and demonstrate a wide variety of skills. One of their 7 qualifiers at Staffordshire University, the first establishment in the UK to offer a degree in esports. As the newly appointed Esports Programme Manager for Digital Schoolhouse I had the pleasure to attend and witness firsthand the incredible benefits of students getting involved in the esports industry.
I was amazed at the dedication and organisation of each team involved. There was no laziness, no isolated student, none of the problems that people often associate with gaming at all. The teams were focused, driven and relied heavily on communication, analysis, strategy and critical thinking. Nowhere was this more apparent that in the spectator room. Even in their downtime teams were watching their opponents play; commenting on the performance and developing their attack plan for the next round. The teams were also able to bring along a shoutcaster (commentator) who was able to sit with a student from Staffordshire University’s own esports programme and Rams Singh, former pro gamer and professional caster, to commentate over the live stream of the games. It’s a job that is much harder than it looks and challenges students to work on both multitasking and public speaking skills.
The event was also a great opportunity for the students at Staffordshire University to apply their own skills and knowledge, and they did so at a very professional level. Students were divided into different jobs, from monitoring and refereeing the matches, to editing and running the live stream on Twitch and coordinating with casters, to creating video transitions and overlays. The tournament demonstrated all the different types of skills and careers that are available in the esports industry. It challenged both the competing students and the university students on communication, time management, organisation and problem solving to name but a few of the necessary skills (an esports tournament in not an esports tournament without at least one problem to be solved).
Despite being the number one growth industry in the world, projected to be worth about $1.7 billion in 2021, esports (and gaming), still suffers from a very outdated view by many. It is somewhat understandable. The industry has grown incredibly quickly and many areas of education move too slowly. 65% of students now are going to have careers that haven’t even been invented yet. We need to take note of that and make sure children have the skills to adapt to a growing digital world. Digital Schoolhouse know this and their esports tournament is merely one of the ways they are preparing children for their future careers. They also recruit schools to run workshops that help develop digital skills through practical task-based-learning. These workshops combined with the esports tournament have been a huge success (their report from last year’s esports tournament is a fascinating read) and they have been able to show some incredible growth. Last year’s tournament involved 20 schools, this year they have 36. It is no wonder that they need our team at Edge to run the online registration process for them with so many students involved.
It’s an exciting time for esports in the UK. There has been huge investment, pro teams entering European leagues and many new grassroots initiatives. However, it’s important that the next generation is both prepared for entering this booming industry and given a wide skill set to be able to adapt to the next big thing, whatever that may be. The world is moving quickly, the education of our kids needs to reflect that, and Digital Schoolhouse is leading the way.
Next week we’ll be talking more about Digital Schoolhouse with Shahneila Saeed, director of the programme and Head of Education at UKIE, as the Grand Final takes place during the London Game Festival. Follow us on Twitter so you don’t miss out on our video EdgeCast!