Do your homework, brush your teeth and play at least three hours of League of Legends before lights out. Wait, what? Given the meteoric rise in popularity of Esports and the astronomical number of students (and adults) who are gamers, educators have hatched a plan to incorporate STEM, ELA and other elements of learning as well as social and emotional growth into online game play.
Leading the way is the Orange County (CA) Department of Education, which formed the OC High School Esports League in January 2018. There are now 38 teams from 25 high schools in the OC that compete against one another every week for eight weeks. Participants are expected to maintain a certain code of conduct, play well with others and hopefully practice and learn skills such team building and time management.
Last week, the North America Scholastic Esports Federation Esports Arena in Orange County hosted the season’s winningest teams, Fountain Valley High and LaQuinta High School for an epic championship faceoff complete with realtime color announcers and an audience. Some teams came from as far as Canada and Pennsylvania to participate. Educators from Manhattan and even remote West Virginia attended to gather tips for taking an Esports program back to their schools or perhaps to just see what the fuss is all about.
Speaking before the crowd of approximately 500, Fountain Valley sophomore Connor Dang Vu said that participating in esports is just like being on any other team.
“You’re practicing just like any other sport. You’re thinking, spending time with other people,” said Connor, his parents Kara and Huy by his side. “I think that it’s something that keeps you active, whether it’s physically or mentally, then it should be deemed a sport.”
And just like your standard football or soccer team, there are weekly practices, meetings and yes, coaches. UC Irvine even recently started offering esports scholarships. According to Forbes, the industry raked in nearly 500 million dollars in 2017 and those numbers are predicted to double in a year.
This, of course, has big business hopping on the bandwagon in droves. Russia’s richest man, Alisher Usmanov, Red Bull and Doritos are just a few early investors. Some supply the gear needed to set up proper play stations as well as access to gaming experts.
“Hey, I am a gamer, too,” said Huy, Connor’s father. “I tell my wife she’s raising two sons. But seriously we see Connor’s grades going up and his responsibility level has increased. We’re happy he’s playing.”
Also on hand at the event were UCI Undergraduate Admissions, UCI Esports, Connected Camps and Bloody Gaming with a post-game industry panel that included Matt Birris and Michael Sherman of Riot Games, Billy Sprout of Blizzard Entertainment, Jessamyn Acebes of North America Scholastic Esports Federation and UCI Esports, Joshara Edwards of Blind Squirrel, ChuckDTV of Twitch Streamer and Rajiv Kothari from Bloody Gaming.