Not so long ago, the thought that playing video games could provide a child any benefits was a ridiculous notion. Newspapers often attributed some of the worst crimes committed by people around the world to their association with computer games. For example, Norwegian terrorist and mass murderer Anders Breivik was widely reported to have “practiced” his skills with a gun by playing Call of Duty.
Even today, whenever there are reports of young people demonstrating anti-social or violent behavior, the role of gaming is often at the forefront of this type of reporting.
Despite these widely held associations, there is growing scientific evidence that not only is this completely untrue, but that there are several potential positives for young gamers.
One report on the edgadget.com website lists eight cognitive benefits of playing video games for children. These include:
- Improved coordination
- Improved problem-solving skills
- Enhanced memory
- Improved attention and concentration skills
- A source of learning
- Improved cognitive function and speed of the brain
- Enhanced multi-tasking
- Improved social skills (ostensibly on multi-player, team-based games)
So here’s a bit of new correlation to note: The slowly eroding negative stigma around gaming is occurring just as the esports industry is spreading its wings.
How has esports helped shape opinion?
Before the esports industry began to take shape, people viewed computer gaming as very much a solitary activity. The image of a teenager locked in his bedroom gripping a controller or mouse was common. However, as the seeds of esports began to bloom into the industry it is today, new images are available.
No longer are games something people buy and then play apart from all forms of interaction. Playing online, with many other players and communicating with them via headsets and microphones, makes gaming inherently more social.
But perhaps the biggest change in perspective has come through education. For a long time, people viewed computer gaming and education as mutually exclusive. Many felt involvement in one would be to the detriment of the other. However, thanks to the development of the esports industry, the spheres of education and computer gaming are becoming linked.
Academics and esports
Not long ago, the career path to becoming a professional gamer barely existed. You’d need to play enough games at a high enough level to catch the attention of a professional team, and that wasn’t easy. At the same time, a growing number of college students were playing esports, creating a vast underground, amateur network.
But with today’s esports industry offering career prospects for not only players but also a whole world of tech and communication professionals, universities and colleges in the US are now willingly accepting scholarship applications for esports students. The number of institutions offering these scholarships is growing rapidly — now over 60 across the US.
Indeed, one wonders if the way things are going with the US esports and collegiate system if there will not come a time when esports follows the examples of major American sports where the top professional teams draft the most talented players each year.
Learning and gaming across the world
It is not just America where academia is growing to recognize the gaming community. In the UK, the British Esports Association is holding its inaugural British Esports Championships in 2018.
Players ages 12 to 19 will compete with the blessing of their schools and teachers. In addition to the competitive element, the tournament will also provide information and experience for those children with an interest in developing a career within the esports industry.
In Korea, which has had a large tradition of gamers earning their stripes playing in cyber-cafes, Chung-Ang University is now accepting applicants from esports players who will enter the Department of Sports Science.
A similar situation exists in China where institutions like the Lanxiang Technical School are offering esports scholarships, which would cost 13,000 yuan, but is free for players on the college’s team. The first intake of 50 students began on the course last September, and they work on improving their skills on League of Legends, Overwatch, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. In the second year, students are split between those hoping to turn professional and those who will seek different career paths in the esports industry.
While the skeptics may note that educational support for computer gaming has only arrived when there are vast amounts of money in the esports industry, the vocational and community-building possibilities are booming.