Yes, really, high school esports programs are good for students! Here's why.
Blog Post: 1/13/21
by Bill Thomas


There is absolutely no doubt that video games are extremely popular among teens and young adults. That popularity has exploded over the last several years, primarily thanks to the increasingly social nature of modern games and the advancement of streaming entertainment platforms like Twitch and YouTube.


And let's face it...these are not the video games of the past. They are social communities that are shaping modern relationships and providing positive outcomes for millions of young people. A recent Pew Research Center study showed that more than 95 percent of high school age boys and nearly 85 percent of high school age girls play video games. The study also showed that teenagers are making friends through playing video games, staying connected with peers and strengthening relationships with their siblings. And it makes sense, since video gaming today, and especially esports, have found a way to combine streaming and social networking in a way the has revolutionized the way new generations consume entertainment.


So what does this mean for high school administrations and school boards?


Done appropriately, and with the proper oversight and regulations in place, implementing esports programs at the high school level can leverage the popularity and social nature of modern video games into increased engagement in school activities.


With such high percentages of teenagers playing video games right now, it is safe to say that some of those students are involved in other school activities, clubs or sports. But many are not. Offering esports programs as an extracurricular activity, given its popularity, is a way schools can boost engagement, particularly among students who aren’t otherwise involved. This is important because research has long shown that students who are more involved and engaged often have higher successful outcomes, such as higher graduation rates, more class participation and greater social interaction with peers.


As you provide greater opportunities for inclusion in school activities, you provide greater opportunities for student success. And this correlates to not just academic success, but social success as well. According to the National Federation of High School Associations, students who participate in school activities are less likely to engage in risky behaviors, such as underage drinking or drug-use, as well as a reduced risk of suicidal behaviors.


High school esports programs also take video game playing out of the “isolated” home environment and provide a more social experience. Video games have become more and more social, with online multiplayer games and interactive platforms that allow players to communicate with each other while playing. These interactive games provide social settings for teens to interact, but they are unmonitored, unchecked and sometimes toxic. This can breed negative online behaviors.


Providing an official esports program as a high school activity can provide a monitored and balanced space for video game play, and can teach positive, effective and appropriate online behaviors that limit cyberbullying, inappropriate comments and toxicity that is a part of the unregulated online video gaming community. It also can help limit video game playing time at home. Research has shown that those students who participate in school esports programs play less at home, focusing more on homework and studying, because grades and attendance impact their “eligibility” to play competitively for the school.


About PA Interscholastic Esports Association

The PA Interscholastic Esports Association (PIEA) is one of the nation's first high school governing bodies solely focused on statewide esports programs and clubs. The nonprofit is a collaborative effort between McNees, Wallace and Nurick, a law firm with an Esports practice to advise the industry on legal matters; the Hollinger Family, which already has part ownership of a Formula One race team; and Estars, an esports tournament infrastructure company. The mission of PIEA is to be a Pennsylvania esports advocate and resource for regulatory oversight and competition guidelines for interscholastic esports.