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Online gaming — the hobby your mom always told you would never make you any money — has translated into a billion-dollar industry. Online gaming and Esports is a booming entertainment venue that looks to rival traditional sports, and the impact of this trend might do a lot to empower kids and navigate them towards science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers.
Once the realm of a small audience, Esports has taken online gaming into the pop culture spotlight, complete with its own celebrities, merchandising, and subculture. It’s an industry that is likely to thrive even in — perhaps especially in — a post-pandemic world.
Despite disparaging parents mourning their children’s fascination for this digital medium, the rise of online gaming may actually be a great thing for many young boys and girls. A proclivity for gaming and Esports can translate into an empowered future in a STEM field.
Here’s what the data of online gaming and Esports tells us about the future of the industry and the children involved.
The Rise of Online Gaming and Esports
From its humble beginnings as a niche in the larger cultures of video games and broadcasted sports, Esports has seen a meteoric rise in popularity. But how did it get here? Where is it going? And where is it taking our children?
The emergence of Twitch as an online broadcaster of Esport competitions suddenly made the pastime accessible in a whole new way. Now, millions of gamers and spectators across the world tune in as their favorite players stream their sessions of games like League of Legends and Fortnite. Esport competitions garner an increasingly huge audience. Business Insider reported that viewership of Esports is expected to rise from 454 million in 2019 to 646 million by 2023. That’s roughly twice the population of the United States!
In investment terms, Esports is even bigger. According to Deloitte, more than 4.5 billion dollars were invested in Esports in 2018, a year-over-year growth of 837%. Competitive online gaming is a rapidly growing industry that is likely here to stay in spite of any economic uncertainty. Newzoo reported that even with the downturns caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic — and likely because of the resulting lockdown procedures — the gaming industry received a revenue boost across platforms. This is great news for both industry workers and young fans of online gaming.
The Potential of Gaming for STEM Careers
There’s a reason video games are so engaging. They offer strategic problem-solving opportunities with instant, responsive feedback, a sense of accomplishment, and a community in which to connect. In short, they offer the perfect environment for a learning experience.
Educators are making use of these benefits of video games to play on the built-in preferences of children fascinated by the digital worlds an online game provides to highlight the importance and value of STEM fields. By lifting the curtain on how their favorite games are made, educators and game designers can get a new generation interested and passionate about jobs like coding, math, and engineering.
With over half of Esports athletes inclined to pursue a STEM field already, online gaming seems to correlate an interest in STEM, unlike any other sport or activity. Colleges are seizing on the interest and popularity of the medium, even offering Esports scholarships and programs to their students. The ability of gaming to get kids involved in STEM is quickly transforming the place of Esports in the future of education.
Parents can help their children cultivate a love of science and technology through video games by enrolling them in programs that make gaming a learning experience. For example, there are summer camps designed to help kids understand STEM concepts through fun, educational activities that integrate video gaming. Camps like these can be immensely helpful for igniting a child’s passion for science and technology, a passion sure to be useful in future careers.
But STEM fields aren’t the only beneficiaries from the online gaming craze.
Gaming’s Role in Business and Marketing
In the business world, “gamification” has become a buzzword. By it, business strategists are referring to the task of applying mechanics common to video games to practices and products as a method of keeping workers and consumers interested.
For example, video games reward players with points or tokens for accomplishing certain tasks. Loyalty programs utilized by a variety of companies from Sears to Starbucks implement similar mechanics to encourage customer interactivity and satisfaction. These strategies have been highly successful across industries, encouraging learning, fitness, engagement, and healthy competition when applied correctly.
By understanding gaming, up-and-coming generations will have an easier time mastering successful gamification. This is a skill they can apply in adapting to an increasingly digital marketplace where games are more important than ever.
Empowering Kids through Safe Gaming
With an increasingly growing number of gamers playing online, safety is a big issue in online gaming and Esport interaction. While these activities can empower and aid in a child’s development like little else, dangers are present in a digital world that parents and educators need to be aware of.
Here are a few internet safety tips for keeping your children protected while online gaming:
Educate children about the dangers of being online, such as inappropriate content, bullying, predators, and scams
Warn children against sharing personal information
Set screen time limits and child-safety filters
Warn children against communicating with strangers and responding to unsolicited conversations
Clearly communicate how and what you will monitor
Be honest, open, and accessible about online questions and behaviors
By following these safety tips and always maintaining an open flow of communication with your child about online activity, you can keep them safe while nourishing their interests.
Esports and gaming don’t have to be seen as a waste of time. Children find themselves engaged in online games because they offer an interactive experience that can help them problem-solve and grow. Educators are increasingly understanding this and “gamifying” the classroom towards lucrative STEM careers for a new generation of innovative gamers.
The explosion of interest in Esports can mean a high-tech, highly educated future for our youth. That’s something you can be proud of.