When I first approached my administration back in August 2021 about implementing an eSports program at the school, I imagined that I would encounter significant resistance to the idea, and in preparation I rehearsed my thesis and did research to be convincing. I was on hand to talk about connections to STEM learning, the ability to engage disengaged students, the inclusive nature of games, the research behind gamification and game-based learning, and more.
However, none of this was necessary as my school principal was extremely supportive of my implementation efforts scholastic esports in school and, more importantly, use the program to teach students transferable skills while encouraging them to explore related career paths.
I started my eSports program with a focus on social-emotional well-being using resources from NASEF structure elementary lessons. Before diving into the competitive aspects of eSports and gaming, we spent three weeks discussing the importance of positive mental health and the negative effects associated with some online gaming cultures. This included discussions of toxicity and the “trash talk” of opponents on the Internet, as well as the effect on a person’s emotional well-being and overall confidence as a result of repeated exposure to such toxicity.
Together, we developed a set of core values and community guidelines for our eSports program, which students used to develop their own individual team code of conduct. From the beginning, the students knew very well what I expected of them, and what they could expect of each other in terms of respectful play. More importantly, they regularly held each other accountable throughout the year!
In addition to developing clear guidelines and expectations for behavior, we also took the time to delve into the importance of proper nutrition, adequate sleep, and exercise to improve the overall performance of eSports athletes and gamers. We’ve explored what it means to be “tilted” (ie, to have an emotional response to events in the game that cause aggravation gameplay), and how “tilt play” contributes to frustration and anger in gameplay, which in turn increases toxic and undesirable behaviors.
Coupled with the eSports training we regularly put through gwoop.com, students researched and developed their own individualized nutrition plans and exercise routines specifically targeting common game injuries. For the first time in the program, students began to understand that eSports is more than just games.
The game begins!
However, the competitive gaming aspect of the program was definitely a highly motivating factor for the students. After all, everyone likes to play! Our program was based on play Rocket Leaguea free multi-platform car football game that is easy to learn, highly entertaining and suitable for high school age.
At first, I didn’t give any coaching or guidance, but let the students just play. While some have played before, most have not. However, it didn’t take long for the students to understand the game and get a feel for the gameplay mechanics. It also didn’t take long for the students to figure out what was in store a lot more to the game when it will be played at a competitive level. At this point, we began discussing the importance of strategizing, fostering teamwork, and encouraging open communication if they were going to take their game to the next level.