Schools Will Save Esports
The future of sports is esports. And schools will save esports.
Schools saving esports sounds odd, I know. All the trends for esports are pointing upward. Esports are growing quickly. In 2005, there were 58 million esports enthusiasts (defined as regular viewers and/or participants). In 2014, there were 89 million enthusiasts with another 117 million occasional viewers. By 2017, the projections indicate there will be 145 million enthusiasts.
Millions of dollars are being earned by pro players of all ages. ESPN and TNT just made major investments in esports. There are at least 5 scholarships available for esports competitors. According to James Bates at ESPN:
In 2014, for the first time, a streamed game’s broadcast attracted more viewers than the NBA Finals. More than 27 million people around the world tuned in to League of Legends World Championship. A year later, more than 31 million people watched SK Telecom T1 beat KOO Tigers 3-1 for the 2015 title and a split of a $1 million prize.
There will be more and more revenue generated by esports in the coming years. According to forecasts from research firm Newzoo, the esports industry will grow from $278 million in revenue in 2015 into $765 million by 2018.
But as Kotaku writer Rob Zacny points out, the future of esports is complicated and messy. The lack of organization and governmental rules in esports is similar to the early days of football in the United States. In the early 1900s, the state of football became so dire that Teddy Roosevelt brought the coaches of Harvard, Yale and Princeton to the White House to discuss changes to the rules to make the sport safer and remove unsportsmanlike conduct.
Schools should have a prominent role in adopting esports and bringing them under the umbrella of their sports conferences that already have rules of organization and sportsmanship. I believe the best esports athletes of all ages should be allowed to go pro, but the organization that schools can bring offers rules, regulations, legitimacy and protections for our children new to esports. It is important for schools and state athletic organizations to get out in front of this now.
Schools will benefit from student involvement in esports. They should fight to protect that benefit. Education pays lip service to the 4C skills we want our students to develop – creativity, communication, collaboration and critical thinking. esports embodies all four of these skills as well as a 5th C – community.
If schools and state athletic organizations can build rules and regulations around esports, in partnership with organizations like the High School Star League, we can then begin to harness the enthusiasm of our children into a positive and safe esports experience.