Enriching education with Esports

News - Aug 30, 2021

Video games have come a long way since Nintendo’s Donkey Kong first landed in our local electronics stores in 1981. So much so, in 2020 the gaming industry was estimated to be worth over $90 billion. The landscape of video games has developed and changed so much in those 30 years. Not only is the industry big business, but global competitions in the Esports realm now generate millions of dollars in revenue and prizes for their competitors and sponsors.

So, what exactly are Esports, and aren’t video games a negative thing for our children and a distraction from things like school and homework? That may have been the case once upon a time, but these days, Esports are being used to accelerate learning capacities and increase certain skills in high school students.
Grace Lutheran College has jumped on the Esports train with our very own Esports team – Grace Gamers, who have already competed in the XP Esports Highschool League QLD Championship, finishing in the semi-finals! The teacher behind the inception of the initiative at Grace is Mrs Talitha Phillips, who credits the talents she identified in her students for the reason she wanted to pursue Esports at Grace.

When I first found out about the HSL (High School League) Esports competition I thought geez, what a great opportunity for our students to be a part of an online sporting competition. Our students are gifted in so many fields, and I know this is a passion for some of them in their free time. Giving them the opportunity to represent the school, as well as highlight how well they communicate with each other while online, made me want to get the idea up and running with the support of the Business Department and Academic Enrichment.   

Educators like Mrs Phillips have identified the benefits that Esports can bring to something like a high school curriculum in terms of improving communication and coordination amongst students, as well as their levels of interaction amongst themselves, giving them extra skills in those areas. When asked what has surprised her about the experience with the Grace Gamers Team, Mrs Phillips says it was the way the students worked together and treated one another.

I have seen students with less ‘gaming’ experience be supported by their peers. After one game, a student apologised to the team for not being a super experienced player and felt it was his fault that they hadn’t scored more points in a team play scenario. His team all started praising him for his skills and reassured him that as a team they work together, and he wasn’t letting them down. It was one of those proud teacher moments, students supporting and uplifting one another with incredible sportsmanship. Hearing them talk and support each other through the games is so detailed and I know these skills will help them in the future with work, online university etc. 

Educators know that taking part in cocurricular activities boosts student success. And not just a little, regardless of the activity. Whether students are participating in a chess club or a touch footy team, results have shown that students who are involved in cocurricular activities are more engaged in their school community, and thus their education.

Before the Grace Gamer's, I had never really taken gaming all that seriously. But playing as a team changes your motivation and made it fun to work together as a team in a more tightly organised environment (Andrew – Year 12).

In 2018, The United States Census Bureau shared a report that found students engaged in school lead activities, such as Esports, were more likely to pay attention in the classroom, care more about their education, as well as feel better about themselves and engage in fewer harmful behaviours like smoking and drinking. 

I had only played online games with friends once or twice before I joined the Grace Gamers Middle School Team. All of my friends in primary school had really bad internet that made it impossible to play with them online. I hadn’t made an effort to find people with similar interests as me in high school to play with until I started practising with Pawan, Toby, Callum and Brooklyn.

Grace Gamers MS was also the first time I used Discord (a digital distribution platform designed for creating communities). I think the team wants to improve together to reach a higher level of play and come back next time better than ever! (Ethan – Year 10)

Esports in schools across the globe is growing in popularity. While research shows that participation in school activities improves students’ performance and overall well-being, parents and educators have resisted the idea of organised Esports in schools. However, current trends show that notion may be changing.

The Grace community has been so supportive of our teams and really got behind them. I have heard younger students say that they can’t wait to be old enough to join the team and they have started practicing the specific games now in preparation. I have had families communicate that it is great to see other options for group participation, especially in this new Digital World where online communication skills are really needed in workplaces and higher education (Mrs Phillips).

One thing is for certain, group activities facilitated and delivered by an education provider in a formal setting (be they online gaming or frisbee golf) bring people together. When students work together, the results are the same as any other team activity – the students participate with their peers in mind. Emotional skills, such as, compassion and good sportsmanship are acquired in these settings, and that’s what educators like Mrs Phillips are infusing with initiatives like Grace Gamers. A team sport that any student can get involved in.

I look forward to seeing the Grace Gamers compete in the Queensland Championships and couldn’t be prouder of their achievements this year. Without the amazing students giving their afternoons to compete, this wouldn’t be a reality. They are incredible students, and I am proud to be able to see them be a team. We are hoping to compete in the HSL National Competition for Season 1 and Season 2 2022.  

To find out more about the Grace Gamers or our Esports program, email Mrs Phillips or contact the college

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