Does Esports Offer a Potential New Career Path?

Competitive video gaming, also known as esports, is quickly becoming one of the most popular sports for students of all ages, including high school and university students. 

Even those who aren’t playing games themselves enjoy watching esports, and the number of viewers is expected to reach 26.6 million by the end of this year. 

Have you been confused by the world of esports? Are you unsure of how this sport works or how it can benefit students? 

Read on to learn about the history of esports, as well as the benefits it offers and the potential career opportunities esports enthusiasts can pursue.

History of Esports

Some people assume that esports has only become popular over the last few years. In reality, though, the concept of competitive video gameplay has been around for quite some time. 

According to American Esports, the first official video competition took place at Stanford University in California in October of 1972. During this event, players competed in a game called Spacewar to win the top prize, which was a one-year subscription to Rolling Stone. 

In 1980, Atari hosted a larger video game competition called the Space Invaders Championship. More than 10,000 players turned out at this event and made video gaming a more widely acknowledged and accepted activity. 

With the advent of streaming platforms like Twitch, esports has become even more widely recognized. The earnings for winners have increased quite a bit, too, with the highest prize pool on record coming in at $34,330,069.00!

Is Esports a “Real” Sport?

video game score board

As esports has grown in popularity, some debate has sprung up about whether or not it counts as a “real” sport. Some argue that it shouldn’t be classified under this umbrella because video games do not require participants to be physically active in the same way that sports like basketball and soccer do. 

Most esports aficionados beg to differ with this viewpoint. 

In an interview with School Sport Canada, esports competitor Michael Dibbs explained that esports is a sport “in every way definable” minus the fact that it doesn’t demand a significant amount of physical exertion. He also added that the amount of mouse work and keyboard work utilized during esports also makes it more physical than most people realize. 

Dibbs went on to argue that plenty of other activities are classified as sports even though they don’t ask for significant amounts of physical activity from participants. He pointed out, too, that esports is “incredibly taxing mentally.”

Esports and Student Opportunities

Esports offers a lot of benefits to students of all ages, but especially high school-aged students who are starting to think about what the future holds for them. The following are some of the top reasons why esports can be a positive influence:

Increased and Diversified Student Involvement

Conventional sports like football and track have notoriously only been open to a limited number of students. 

Not everyone has the physical abilities or the interest, for that matter, in playing these types of sports or even watching them. As a result, many students have not been involved in their schools’ activities and have felt disengaged from the student body as a whole. 

As esports become popular in school settings, this opens up new opportunities for students who would have otherwise felt left out to participate and spend more time with their classmates.

Improved Health Through Inclusion

When students feel included at school, both their physical health and mental health improve. 

Strong social connections have been shown to improve immune system function and improve people’s health and resilience to infections. Poor social connections can also dampen the immune system, partially because feelings of exclusion can contribute to poor sleep, which in turn reduces immune system function. 

Students who are involved, accepted, and have a chance to socialize with their peers may be less prone to mental health challenges like depression and anxiety as well. These issues are running rampant among students, especially teens, these days, so anything that can be done to potentially lessen them ought to be taken into account.

Improved Hard and Soft Skills

Participation in esports gives students a chance to practice a wide range of hard and soft skills. 

Little girl video gamer

For example, they can improve their ability to think strategically, plan ahead, and solve problems in creative ways. Esports also teaches time management and can help students to improve their executive functioning, which can translate to better performance in school and, later, the workplace. 

As for soft skills, also known as relational skills, esports presents students with a chance to become better team players and collaborators. Esports can teach students how to handle successes and failures in more appropriate ways, too. 

Esports also reinforce for students the importance of prosocial values. Prosocial values are centred around concern and care for others’ welfare and include things like sportsmanship, mutual respect, and fairness. These types of values will serve students well in school and when they graduate and enter the “real world.”

Expanded STEM Learning

Esports introduces students to new aspects of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) world. They help participants to gain a greater appreciation for this industry and can teach them about subjects they might not have had an interest in learning about previously. 

In many cases, esports may also increase students’ interest in exploring careers in the STEM field, too.

Scholarship Opportunities

Esports participation also provides unique scholarship opportunities for high school students who are looking for ways to pay for their university education. Many esports competitions offer scholarship money to the winners, and some of these scholarships are quite substantial. 

According to Esports Canada, students who are most likely to win scholarships for esports have shown proficiency in the following types of games: 

  • Sports games (FIFA, Madden, Rocket League, etc.)
  • Fighting games (Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, etc.)
  • Real-time strategy games (such as StarCraft 2)
  • First-person shooter games (Counter-Strike Global Offensive, Fortnite, Overwatch, Paladins, Player Unknown Battlegrounds, etc.)
  • Multiplayer online battle arena games (Smite, Heroes of the Storm, Defense of the Ancients, League of Legends, etc.)
  • Collectible card games (such as Hearthstone) 

Esports can open the door to more advanced education than students could afford otherwise. They may even get students who weren’t previously interested in attending university to reconsider their future and strive for a career that they didn’t even know about beforehand.

Esports Career Opportunities

In addition to scholarship opportunities and contributions to better physical and mental health, esports also presents new and exciting career opportunities to older students. The following are some examples of careers that can emerge from participation in esports as a student:

STEM Careers

Because esports creates more opportunities for students to get involved in the STEM world, it stands to reason that it would also introduce more people to a variety of STEM career options. 

Some examples of STEM careers that esports enthusiasts might be drawn to include: 

  • Video Game Design
  • Video Game Programming
  • Web Development
  • UI/UX Design
  • Graphic Design 

Without involvement in esports in their youth, some university students and young adults might not even realize they have an interest in these career paths. Esports has the potential to open them up to a whole new world.

Professional Gaming Careers

Once upon a time, the idea of being a professional gamer might have seemed downright laughable. In 2021, though, professional esports has gone from being a pipe dream to becoming a viable (albeit competitive) career path. 

With the right amount of practice, tenacity, and natural skill, some esports participants have gone on to earn impressive livings as professional gamers and video game streamers.

Esports Facilitation Careers

For those who don’t have the skills necessary to become a professional esports competitor, there are still plenty of career paths that allow them to be part of the action and work in a world they love.  

Consider a more “traditional” sports team, such as an NBA team or NFL team. These teams need assistance from a variety of individuals to operate well and set players up for success. This includes managers, technology experts, finance experts, medical staff, recruitment professionals, and marketing experts. 

Esports teams need all of these individuals to run well, too. Esports enthusiasts who want to continue to work in the industry even when they’re not playing may want to consider one of these roles. 

It’s worth noting as well that by the end of this year, professional esports is projected to gain more fans than the NBA. Clearly, the industry is growing rapidly. This means the demand for professionals who can keep it growing will increase in the future as well.

The Future Looks Bright for Esports

There’s no doubt about it. Esports is here to stay, and it will surely continue to have a positive impact on many students’ lives. 

If you’ve been hesitant about letting your child give esports a try, now might be a good time to reconsider. 

From increased hard and soft skills (which can translate to more internship and job offers in the future) to new and exciting career opportunities, there are lots of reasons to look favourably upon esports.