The North America Scholastic Esports Federation has more than 100 scholastic esports clubs across the country and is growing fast! Fantastic, you say! But, what are esports?
Esports is a term derived from “electronic sports” and is essentially competition in video games at a very high level, similar to traditional sports.
Esports titles vary from team-based games to individual games with each title assuming a certain genre. Genres vary from multiplayer online battle arenas (MOBA) to real-time strategy (RTS) and first-person shooters (FPS).
Strategy and Communication
The games played by esports teams involve a lot of strategy. A baseball team has nine different positions on the field, with each player filling a specific role. If you look at how an esports team competes, their strategy often mirrors a traditional athletic sports team. Each player within an esports team fits into a specific role. Team strategies are formed in order to figure out how each role player will help accomplish the game objectives.
Communication and collaboration are vital within esports, because players don’t play within a vacuum. Just as players on an athletic field have to communicate to call plays and prepare their next moves, an esports team does the same. Since teams are competing against one another, they must be able to adapt their strategy real-time based upon what’s taking place during each round.
Communication between team members is critical to implementing any changes in team strategy. Equipment that team members use include a hands-free headset. This allows each active team member to use both hands to operate their keyboard and mouse while staying in continuous communication with the rest of their teammates.
Team-based game titles are comprised of various roles within each team that all work together to attempt to outperform the opponent. Often times, roles have “specialties” or main focuses for specific aspects of a game. In a sports-related title like NHL 18, a team may have a few players that excel at defense, while others excel at offensive positions. Part of the planning that takes place before competition is to establish positions based upon team members’ strengths and weaknesses.
Esports teams hold tryouts to fill active roster spots. Depending upon the number of participants available, a team may have an active roster of 5-8 players, with additional players that serve as alternates. The active roster size adjusts based upon the game being played. Some games allow for larger active team sizes, in which case there would be no alternates and all players would take part. Limits are generally placed on team sizes, depending upon the tournament or game title.
Improving Individual and Team Skills
The “skill gap” between players of different skill levels increases exponentially as the skill level increases. Casual players tend to have some basic understanding of strategy and motor skills that are necessary for winning and competing in esports titles. However, as player skill increases, motor skills become less of a difference maker and psychological skills differentiate good players from great players. These players at the top level tend to make few mistakes and typically try to out-play and outperform their opponents psychologically through their decision making and “mind games.”
Helping students improve their skills is where the team aspect of esports creates a growth environment for individuals. Exposing beginning or intermediate players to highly-skilled players within their team creates a collaborative environment where players strive to improve. If a player is already the best-skilled player on a team, they’ll often compete online with other highly-skilled players to improve their own abilities.
Teams hold regular practice sessions against each other to improve on their individual skills, as well as improve upon how they work together as a team. Team practice sessions are treated as simulated competitions, where the active team roster may split into two smaller teams that compete against each other. A team may also opt to practice online against another team in a scrimmage match, outside of a competitive tournament.
Scholastic Esports Have Roles for Everyone
A high school athletic team has a number of roles that students can play. They’ll often have a varsity team and junior varsity squad, each with a starting lineup and group of players who serve as substitute players. Likewise, an esports team can opt to have a varsity or junior varsity team. This is a way that some schools choose to set up their esports teams in order to allow more students to participate. As students improve their skill level, they may be “promoted” to the varsity team for competition.
There are also many roles for non-players within scholastic esports teams. A school may choose to have managers that help the team in a number of different areas both during competition and in general team operations.
Statistical analysis has become a major aspect of professional sports, and esports is no different. If a student has an interest in math they can serve as the team statistician.
If a team wants to purchase new equipment, they’ll need additional funds. Students with a passion for finance or accounting could fill a role to help as a team treasurer. Others can coordinate fundraising drives and activities.
Teams need to recruit new players since high school students are around for only four years, therefore marketing personnel are needed to help find additional players. Social media, photographers, videographers, graphic designers, and writers all play an essential role within this field.
Some games have storylines that develop fascinating and entertaining characters. One fun way that people participate in the world of esports without actually playing is to dress as one of the characters within a game, known as “cosplay.” Characters’ outfits can be incredibly detailed and elaborate. You’ll often see cosplay as a fun element of esports tournaments and meetups.
There are a number of roles that students can play within the esports ecosystem. Students with a desire to become involved within the world of esports are guaranteed to find a role they can play!
NASEF: Combining Esports and STEM Education
There are many parallels between competitive high school esports and STEM education. The fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics require practice, deliberation, strategy, analysis, and teamwork. These characteristics are essential within the world of esports.
For example, an esports team will have a difficult time succeeding if they do not practice the strategy they have designed. Likewise, an engineer working on a project can’t succeed if without practicing the skills necessary to implement a strategy that has been designed. Projects and tasks within STEM require deliberation. They need a well thought-out strategy that must take into account multiple additional “moving parts,” both literally and figuratively! Esports teams must also deliberate and take into account last-minute changes, or surprises that may arise within competition.
Scholastic Esports Enhances Education
At NASEF, we wholeheartedly believe in using esports to enhance education for all students. The skills a student learns within the world of esports helps to prepare them for careers beyond high school.
We have found that esports is a powerful vehicle to reach students where their interests are, helping to get students invested into their own education. By successfully helping students that were previously “at risk” find an interest in esports, we’ve seen them become more engaged in their studies. Students are making friends, meeting new people they otherwise wouldn’t, and are becoming engaged on campus due to their interest in esports.
The ripple effect of bringing students together in a positive environment is one that we are excited to see develop as they go on to college with a passion for learning and collaboration.