Esports is increasingly becoming a legitimate sport in schools and universities (Credit: Yan Krukau/ CC-BY-SA-2.0/ Pexels)

After years of reluctance, educational institutions across the United States are finally embracing competitive video gaming, commonly referred to as esports. Since 2018, over 8,600 high schools and about 175 colleges and universities have added esports as an extracurricular activity. And the numbers keep growing.

The shift in attitude is credited to two factors — the increasing popularity of esports and the recognition of the potential benefits organized video gaming can offer to students.

Esports popularity

Esports, short for electronic sports, refers to organized competitive gaming where players or teams compete against each other in video games. Esports involve professional players competing at a high level, often in tournaments with significant prize pools. These competitions can take place in various formats. They include individual player vs. player matches, team vs. team matches, or even large-scale events in arenas with live audiences.

Esports audience is expected to reach 640 million by 2025 (Credit: CC-BY-SA-2.0)

The esports industry has experienced significant growth in recent years. Gaming experts estimate that by 2025, esports competitions will draw in 640 million people or about 60 percent more than in 2019. One of the biggest reasons for the popularity is the social component. Fans of popular online games can easily connect to top players in the field through various social media platforms like YouTube and Twitch.

The surge in both player participation and viewership has transformed esports into an immensely profitable endeavor. Analysts project the global esports market to expand from $1.38 billion in 2022 to $1.87 billion by 2025.

Benefits of esports as an extracurricular activity

Helps students succeed in school

Most video gamers do not participate in traditional school sports or clubs. Experts believe that offering esports as an extracurricular activity will help these kids get more involved with the school community. This, in turn, will cause them to be more engaged in the classroom and aspire to pursue higher education.

Fosters inclusivity

Esports are more inclusive than most sports. This is because there are few limitations to playing games online. For example, in traditional sports like soccer, athletes are separated into teams by gender. Also, physically impaired people have to compete separately. In esports, gender, or physical impediment do not matter. The only important thing is the player's skill.

Including esports as an extracurricular activity can help students develop important skills (Credit: CC-BY-SA-2.0/ X)

Communication and teamwork

Being part of a team can teach kids how to communicate and collaborate with others. These skills are essential for both personal and professional success.

Decision making

The fast-paced nature of most video games demands quick decision-making from players. This prepares them for high-pressure careers like medicine, where the ability to make instant decisions is often crucial.

Time management

Most schools require students to maintain their academic standings to participate in school teams. This motivates kids to be more organized and manage their time efficiently.

Expands STEM and other career opportunities

Esport players often pursue STEM-related careers (Credit: GYO/ CC-BY-SA-2.0)

Students involved in esports often lean towards STEM-related jobs, which are higher-paying and readily available. The popularity of esports has also created career opportunities within the field. In addition to players, esports teams, both professional and amateur, also need support staff to operate. They include managers, marketing staff, engineers, and much more.

Given all these benefits, it is hardly surprising that schools are increasingly adding esports to their extracurricular activities.