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The Surprising Educational Benefits of Esports

June 6, 2024

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Traditional sports have always been an integral part of education in the United States. Almost every school in the US has some kind of sports team, whether it’s basketball, baseball, or football. However, while traditional sports have enjoyed decades of attention, Esports have been stealing the limelight. . 

In fact, since 2018, Esports programs have exploded in popularity. According to the National Education Association (NEA), over 8,600 high schools adopted a program between 2018 and 2021, and over 1,200 colleges did the same. 

But many questions still exist. Are these Esports programs a valuable addition to the school’s curriculum? Are there benefits from students engaging in in competitive gaming similar to the cognitive and social skills gained from playing on a gridiron or basketball court? The short answer is yes, but the reality is a bit more complicated than that. 

Overall, the benefits of Esports can’t be overstated, and there is a net positive outcome from the proliferation of these programs. Yes, students are playing video games, but those games are helping them in multiple ways. 

What are Esports?

While it’s easy to conflate Esports with regular video gaming, there are some significant differences. First, organized Esports are team-based, meaning individuals work together to compete against other teams. So, rather than playing solo or just for fun, students are pushing themselves to improve to beat the competition and developing various skills along the way. 

Esports are not just popular in the US. As of 2022, over 500 million people globally watched esports competitions, and demand is only increasing. Competitive gaming clubs are in over 100 countries , including nations like the US, South Korea, the UK, and China. 

The market has gotten so large that Esports tournaments are now a major source of revenue in the US and abroad. Esports have become a billion-dollar industry, with many gamers turning their passion for playing, streaming, or commentating into a professional career. 

Esports vs. Traditional Sports

At first glance, there may seem to be little overlap between Esports and traditional sports in a school setting. Games like basketball, baseball, and football are physically demanding and require students to exercise and train. Also, many of the matchesare played outside in a field. 

However, there are several elements where sports and Esports are similar, and even a few ways Esports are more beneficial. For example: 

  • Team-Building - While there are individual Esports tournaments, schools focus on team-based games and strategies. Students must learn how to work together to succeed. This focus on collaboration helps kids in other areas, preparing them with essential soft skills.
  • Social Development - Part of being a kid is learning to make friends. Esports programs offer an easy way for students to bond and build communities around a shared interest.. Plus, students learn to communicate better and recognize various social cues, promoting social emotional learning..
  • Inclusivity - While traditional sports are technically open to everyone at the school, many students prefer to avoid physical activity. Plus, if a student isn’t physically capable of playing the game (e.g., due to disability), they can feel left out. Esports offer a truly level playing field, as anyone can pick up a controller. 
  • Discipline and Motivation - Because Esports are so competitive, players aren’t participating just to “have fun.” While the gaming is a significant part of the appeal, students must be disciplined and focused when training with their team. Not only do they have to show up to practice, but they must also learn how to balance Esports with the rest of their academics. Just like with any other sport, there is a GPA requirement to be on the Esports team.  

The Educational Benefits of Esports

While Esports programs can help students cognitively and emotionally, they can also contribute to academic success. Let’s break down some of the most compelling benefits of Esports and why they can be so valuable for students and educators. 

Cognitive and Mental Health Development

While there are only a handful of scientific studies regarding Esports and cognitive development, current results look promising. According to the National Institute of Health, children who play video games regularly perform better on cognitive tests than those who don’t play at all. 

Although this study only looked at the impact of video games as a whole, the results would be greater with organized Esports. With the discipline and organized nature of k12 Esports programs, educators will see students develop both hard and soft skills.

What’s important to note is that, as with anything, moderation is critical. Yes, gaming and Esports can lead to better cognitive development, but gaming without purpose, too much screen time, or a bad diet can negatively impact students, both in and out of competition. It’s imperative for students and educators to balance Esports with non-gaming activities, including physical fitness and a healthy diet. 

Esports can also be a fantastic gateway to STEM education programs. Gamification is a reliable method of engaging students in complex topics and problems, so Esports can be a great way to engage students in tech or STEM curricula. Some video games can demonstrate statistics and probability, while others can help students understand mathematics and engineering (e.g., Minecraft). 

Social and Emotional Growth

Team sports can offer students substantial social growth in a few ways. First, kids learn how to interact with each other and collaborate. These social interactions make it easier to foster discussions and conversations outside of the game arena. 

Second, students can become more emotionally mature and stable. Part of learning how to play Esports is getting comfortable with the idea of losing. Over time, students learn how to accept and learn from their losses within the game. Those attributes can carry over into other aspects of life, such as tackling negative interpersonal interactions or poor grades. 

Finally, Esports can give students a self-esteem boost. As they develop their skills and aid their team, kids will feel better about themselves and gain confidence. Overall, success in Esports can translate to success in students’ academic and professional careers. 

Potential Career Opportunities in Esports for Students

Since the Esports industry ismassive, and connections to pathways in STEM are plentiful, career opportunities are relatively abundant. If students can show their prowess in the game, they can sign lucrative contracts to compete professionally. On average, players can earn up to six figures, especially if they win larger competitions or are part of large organizations or teams. 

However, Esports offers a wide range of career options outside of playing the game. Students may learn skills that can help them pursue opportunities like: 

  • Programmer - Some students may love gaming so much that they want to build and develop their own games. Some players might be able to get jobs as app or game programmers, or they can use their technical skills for other IT careers. 
  • Analyst - As with traditional sports, Esports has created an industry of analysts and streamers providing insight and opinions about the game. Having competed in k12 esports programs, students could leverage their experience and analyze professional tournaments by writing for publications or hosting their own websites. 
  • Coach - Professional Esports teams need coaches like any other game. Once students hang up their controllers (so to speak), they can use their experience to coach other players or teams. 
  • Event Organizer - The rise of esports has led to numerous tournaments and events, both online and offline. Students with organizational skills can pursue careers in event management, coordinating esports competitions, managing logistics, and ensuring everything runs smoothly.
  • Marketing and Public Relations - Every esports team and gaming company needs marketing professionals to promote their brand, engage with fans, and manage public relations. Students can develop skills in social media management, content creation, and community engagement.
  • Graphic Designer - Visual appeal is crucial in the gaming industry, from game design to promotional materials. Students interested in art and design can become graphic designers, creating game assets, logos, and marketing content for esports teams and events.
  • Broadcaster or Commentator - Esports events often feature live commentary and broadcasting. Students with a passion for the game and strong communication skills can pursue careers as commentators or hosts, providing play-by-play analysis and engaging audiences.
  • Esports Journalist - Covering the latest news, trends, and stories in the esports world requires skilled journalists. Students can write for online publications, create video content, or manage blogs dedicated to esports, sharing their insights and keeping fans informed.

Outside of jobs within the Esports community, students can learn various professional skills that can translate to other careers. These skills can include: 

  • Leadership - Some players naturally take on leadership roles within the team, which they can use to succeed in any administrative and team management roles. 
  • Multi-Tasking - Being a successful Esports player means juggling different responsibilities and tasks within tight deadlines. The ability to multitask can help students in various positions or set them up for success in specific roles, like project managers or coordinators. 
  • Creative Problem-Solving - Players have to adapt to a changing situation with each new game, opponent, or tournament round. Similarly, players may have to use different characters and abilities, forcing them to adjust and solve problems on the fly. Creative problem-solving is a valuable skill in the workplace and could help students offer solutions to new problems that arise. 
  • Time Management - Balancing practice sessions, tournaments, and academics requires strong time management skills. Students learn to prioritize tasks, meet deadlines, and efficiently allocate their time, which are crucial abilities in any professional setting.
  • Collaboration and Communication - Working as part of an esports team involves constant communication and collaboration. Students develop the ability to articulate strategies, give and receive feedback, and work cohesively with others, which are essential skills in any collaborative work environment.

How to Integrate Competitive Gaming With Esports Into a Classroom Curriculum

Understanding the value of Esports in education is only the first step. Incorporating a comprehensive Esports program into the curriculum can be challenging, especially for schools with tight budgets. However, just because it’s difficult doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Some of the best techniques you can utilize include: 

  • Generating Interest - Start discussing the possibility of creating Esports teams with students and faculty to gauge interest. If there’s a huge demand for such a program, it’s easier to justify investing in it. 
  • Look at Other Local Esports Programs - Chances are there are other schools within the district or county with an Esports curriculum or program. You can reach out and ask what they did to get started and solicit help. 
  • Work with Esports Providers - Organizations like the US Academic Esports League (USAEL) can help educators set up academic Esports teams with the right tools. Best of all, these programs can work for all education levels, from elementary to high school. 
  • Start Small - First, you may begin the program with a single team or game. As you build interest and gather feedback from students and faculty, you can expand to include more teams or game varieties. 

The Bottom Line: Students Play Video Games and Learn

As the Esports industry continues to grow, demand for educational programs will also increase. With a strong curriculum and a focus on academics, educators and school districts can harness the positive benefits of Esports to improve student engagement, develop soft and hards skills, and chanel students’ passion for gaming into college and career opoortunities. 

  • By partnering with organizations like the USAEL, your school can start seeing the benefits from integrating competitive gaming sooner than you might think. Once you see the results, it’s easy to expand the program, with 85% of U.S. teens playing video games


Peter Polygalov

Peter oversees the creation and integration of the marketing department’s content, assets, ads, campaigns, and outreach. He has been with Mastery Coding from the very start and is here to use his marketing skills to make sure your school gets the positive attention and support it deserves.

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