Updated: Feb 10, 2021
It's an argument that a 13-year-old me tried to make to my mom back in 1991 -- "playing video games actually helps me focus, mom!"
But did I really believe it made me a better student? I was pretty smart back then, but definitely had ADD (before medication was thing). But...if we are being honest...I just wanted five more minutes of playing Super Mario Bros!
Well, according to a few recent studies, gaming must have had some benefit on me as a student – something that a 13-year-old me would have used over and over again to get that five more minutes of playing Super Mario Bros.
Now, we have come a long way from the original Atari and Nintendo games of the 1980s and 1990s. Games are far more detailed and strategic, require more dexterity and coordination, and are absolutely more social and interactive.
So, it comes as no surprise that more recent studies link a positive correlation between students who play video games and higher academic and social achievement.
The research shows that students who play video games tend to have higher math achievement, accelerated language learning and technology fluency, as well as improved digital and print literacy.
Additional studies show that video games can help improve and teach teamwork, social skills, strategic thinking, and time management and organizational skills. Research also makes the case that playing video games can improve visual acuity and attention, increase problem solving skills, and foster scientific reasoning.
That is why it is so important for high schools throughout the country to look into establishing official esports programs at their schools.
Now, it can be said that students who are drawn to gaming are often equally engaged by the broader technology ecosystem.
But esports also provides schools with an opportunity to use the popularity of video games as an “anchor” to draw more students into STEM learning.
And schools can build curriculum and lesson plans around esports that leverage video gaming into measurable outcomes for students to seek advanced STEM degrees and STEM-related careers.
But most importantly, through official esports programs, schools can offer a structured and regulated environment for video gaming that can address some of the negative outcomes relating to overuse, addiction and online toxicity that lead to poor academic performance.
Strong regulation and oversight will help reduce the negatives of video gaming while allowing schools to take advantage of the tremendous benefits to students’ academic achievements.
But regulation is key.
School boards, administrators and the parents have to trust that esports programs are focused on their students’ interests. Because without that trust…schools may never even have a chance to show the immense potential video gaming can have on student performance.