Esports can be played on PCs, consoles, and mobiles. Depending on the game, the format can be 1v1, 2v2, 3v3, and so on. There are currently around 35 different video games that are recognised as esports, including multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) games such as League of Legends and Dota 2; first-person shooters (FPS) such as CS:GO, Call of Duty, and Overwatch; fighting games such as Street Fighter and Super Smash Bros; and sports-based titles including FIFA and Rocket League.
During the last academic year, we saw just under 300 teams from around 80 UK schools and colleges compete in the British Esports Championships (or ‘Champs’). The British Esports Association has also led a groundbreaking esports project in alternative provision schools. Through this, we have collected many case studies about the positive impact esports has had on young people. These impacts range from significant improvements in attendance and behaviour and positive engagement with members of staff, through to helping young people to engage with Higher Education and career pathways linked to esports and wider digital industries. Through harnessing young people’s enthusiasm, passion, and commitment to esports, educators can use it as a modern, very relevant vehicle to motivate and engage.
How will esports benefit young people?
Esports can engage a wide demographic of young people in team-based activities. This may include young people who are not interested in traditional team-based activities such as sport, music, or drama.
When practised in moderation, as part of a balanced lifestyle, esports is also a beneficial alternative to consuming passive media, such as watching television or scrolling social media. It has explicit links to computing education, STEAM subjects, and the development of digital skills. It also promotes character development, in the same way as traditional team-based activities.
Participating in esports promotes leadership skills and teamwork, boosts social and communication skills, and helps to develop problem-solving, decision-making, and multitasking abilities. It can also help to improve digital skills, develop friendships, improve reaction times, and increase resilience. Of course, it also provides a number of intrinsic emotional rewards, helping to make students happy!
Careers and transferable skills
As the esports industry continues to grow, more and more jobs and career pathways are being created, creating a demand for people with specific skills. Roles within the industry include professional player, coach, referee, and production crew, as well as, for example, social media manager or events manager. The knowledge, skills, and experience that young people develop by studying and participating in esports are very much transferable, and will only become more so as our industries become more digital.
Esports is already popular with many young people, and they can now pursue qualifications in the subject. Our team at the British Esports Association has partnered with Pearson, the global education publisher, to develop the first esports qualification of its kind in the world: the BTEC in Esports. The Level 3 BTEC is fully funded by the Education and Skills Funding Agency, and over 65 further education colleges have already registered to deliver the qualification from September, although the course only launched at the end of April. We are now working on an entry level qualification, Level 1, Level 2, and international equivalents. For more information on the BTECs in Esports, please visit helloworld.cc/pearson-esports.
There is also a small but growing number of universities offering academic undergraduate and postgraduate programmes, including Chichester University, and Confetti Institute, which is part of Nottingham Trent. Furthermore, in the USA, there are now over 200 universities offering esports scholarships to their students.
The British Esports Championships
In the Champs, teams play against each other in weekly online fixtures across three different age-appropriate games: League of Legends, Overwatch, and Rocket League.
In the 2019/2020 season, just under 300 teams competed, from over 80 different schools and colleges. As a result of lockdown, our live grand finals were streamed live on Twitch, the Amazon-owned platform, rather than at the Insomnia66 gaming festival as planned. The Rocket League final, between Glasgow Clyde and Sunderland Colleges, was seen by almost 2,000 viewers.
The 2020/2021 championships start at the end of September; schools and colleges can register their interest by visiting britishesports.org/championships.
The Esports industry
Global esports revenues reached around $1.1 billion in 2019, a year-on-year growth of over 26 per cent. Revenues are still on the up, and are expected to reach $1.8 billion (over £1 billion) by 2022. In the UK, esports is the second fastest-growing entertainment and media sector (21 per cent year on year) and is predicted to be worth £48 million by 2022 (www.newzoo.com, www.ukie.org.uk/reports).
At the professional level, leading global teams and players can earn significant sums in wages and prize money playing in online and live tournaments. For example, the team of five who won last year’s Dota 2 ‘The International’ tournament won $11 million. Many traditional sporting organisations, like Manchester City FC and Barcelona FC also now have their own esports teams.
British Esports Association
The British Esports Association is a not-for-profit organisation established in 2016 with government backing, to support and promote esports in the UK. As a national body, their aims are to foster British talent, increase the awareness of esports, and provide expertise and advice. They help to educate the general public — including parents, educators, media, and government — about what esports is and its benefits.