No matter your preconceived notion of how video games affect youth, it is important to realize that three quarters of kids under 18 play video games on a weekly basis in the U.S. Kids are, and will continue to play video games, so it is important to know how gaming affects youth development.
Education and Development
Esports And STEM Education: A 2020 Perspective is a recent Forbes article written about how esports influence younger generations. They listed many benefits to participating in esports, including:
Better hand-eye coordination
Improved visual-spatial reasoning
Meaningful social interaction
Improved graduation rates
Scholarships and travel opportunities
The positives far outweigh the negatives, and are even backed up by statistics. The High School Esports League, HSEL, states that esports in schools improves GPAs for students and increases attendance up to 10%, which corroborates esports being influential on improving graduation rates for kids. Likewise, esports open the doors to a plethora of educational opportunities through universities. Video games have been shown to increase cognitive functions as well. Despite the bad stigma around video games, they can actually improve a child’s development, especially when played in the team environment that esports create.
Traditional Sports vs. Esports
Physical sports programs have a long history of benefiting students through increased engagement, teamwork, social skills and a sense of purpose. It is important to understand that esports supplement many of the same benefits that physical sports do for youth. The goal of pushing the legitimacy of esports is not to replace vital education with gaming; instead, engaging in esports encourages the development of skills that complement youth’s education. Kids learn all about teamwork and communication while constantly learning new skills and applying them both in game and in their day-to-day lives.
Accessibility and Inclusivity
The potential for both accessibility and inclusivity is huge in esports. Traditional sports are a great option for able-bodied youth to participate in, but there is limited potential for people with disabilities. Esports is something almost anyone can participate in, and video games have become much more accessible over time as technology increases. Kids have access to esports whether they have a desktop computer, a mobile phone, or even a local library. Thanks to organizations like AbleGamers, more disabled youth are finding ways to utilize gaming technology who previously were not capable of gaming previously. Esports still has a long way to go in terms of accessibility, as the industry is lacking in female, minority, and disability representation - but it has the potential to cross boundaries we have yet to surpass.