A Parent’s Guide To Understanding The eSports Athlete

The world of sports is being re-defined by the emergence of eSports and the playing field has opened up a number of opportunities.

Now that eSports – live video game competitions – are a high school sport, young game enthusiasts might be moving into the spotlight. These kids aren’t just taking over high school computer labs across the country; they’re changing what it means to be a student-athlete. And while you may not relish the idea of your child spending even more time playing video games, pro gaming is a new career choice – and top student eSports players can even achieve college scholarships.

eSports has been around for a while – and kids can still play on leagues unaffiliated with their schools. But the effort to recognise them, organise them, and reward them in the same way as traditional teams provides a structure for high school-age players. And a new partnership between ESM, select GEMS Education schools, and a reputable online gaming network could soon legitimise gaming as a “real” sport. With the first season starting in a couple of months, high schools can organise teams, train, and compete against one another.

What is eSports?
Simply put, eSports is the competitive wing of multiplayer gaming. But there’s a wide range of ways, places, and games to play. Large-scale eSports tournaments are happening all the time on the internet with players competing from home. Certain platforms allow users to join matchups as independent players or go in as teams. Although many gamers play just for the thrill, online tournaments frequently award cash prizes.

If teens are part of an eSports team at school, the games are played using the school’s internet link, and there is no travelling. A growing number of colleges in the USA and UK also offer eSports as varsity-level sports. Then there’s the live, professional circuit, where players compete in events that accommodate thousands of fans. Dubai already has plans to have its very own stadium that will be dedicated entirely to eSports, called Dubai X-Stadium, which will position the city as a hub for global eSports in the region. Pro games are also broadcast on video channels, including YouTube Gaming and Twitch.

What type of games do eSports players compete in?
Certain types of games, including arena battles and fighting games, lend themselves more to competition than, say, role-playing games, which don’t have a lot of combat. Some of the biggest titles in eSports are Counter-Strike, League of Legends, and StarCraft. Sports games such as FIFA, Rocket League, and NBA 2K are also popular. Fortnite is gaining steam in the eSports world, too.

Should I encourage my young gamer to pursue eSports?
eSports supporters, including ESM and GEMS Education, believe that playing competitive video games requires some of the same skills as traditional sports, such as thinking strategically, learning to work as a team, and putting forth strong individual effort. Being a part of a team can be beneficial in a child’s life, so long as the coach, school staff, and other team members help create a supportive and controlled environment.

Can you really get a college scholarship by playing video games?
Yes, kids can get college scholarships for eSports. The National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE), the main governing body for varsity eSports, has awarded $9 million in eSports scholarships and aid since 2016. More than 80 colleges participate in scholarship programmes. As with all scholarships, colleges are looking for well-rounded students (i.e., not eSports zombies). Incidentally, there’s talk of adding eSports as a “demonstration sport” in the 2024 Olympics. So if your child doesn’t get a scholarship, they could still compete on the world stage.

Do both girls and boys play eSports?
Unlike professional sports, eSports has no physical requirements other than fast reflexes. Still, it’s a male-dominated world. There are, however, a growing number of professional female eSports players, such as the top-earning female StarCraft player, Sasha Hostyn from Canada. eSports run all-female tournaments, and there are all-female internet squads.

Should I be concerned about screen time if my kid wants to pursue eSports?
Absolutely. The amount of screen time eSports require is one of their biggest downsides. To become proficient, players have to put in upward of eight hours a day. Even pro players say the training regimen is harsh. If your kid wants to do eSports, you’ll need to be more serious about rules for how much they can play during the week and on weekends. Make sure
their screen time is balanced with other important activities: physical stimulation, homework, and human interaction.