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Report – eSports – Ready to Play

Posted on: Thursday 05 July 2018 1:44am by Tom Jordan

With a diverse audience of over 300 million, Esports is a hugely exciting, growing sector – but what exactly is it, how do you get involved and how do you use it to engage your own audiences?

Takeaway:

  •  Esports is MASSIVE, and is only going to get bigger.
  • Esports is a platform to reach the unreachable audience: millenials.
  • The platform can be a huge platform for good, creating communities and enhancing digital education.

Detail:

As someone whose main experience of watching gaming is impatiently standing around nagging my son to hurry up as he completes yet another game of Fortnite while his tea goes cold, I was intrigued to find out what the real deal is behind the massive, and ever-growing, esports industry.

The panel, led by Heather Dower, essentially addressed the question of what exactly esports is, why it’s so popular, and why they all think it’s a really good thing, especially – possibly surprisingly to outsiders – as a tool for education.

James Dean gave an overview of what esports is all about. He said that the term ‘sports’ can be a little problematic – it’s really a catch-all term for competition across a multitude of games.

The facts and figures he cited are quite mind-blowing: there are more than 380m viewers worldwide, and esports generated over $1.4 billion in 2018. James showed a video of an ESL tournament in Poland, in a huge arena, which could have been footage from the World Cup or Olympics: it had 175,000 visitors over two weekends, plus 75 million watching online.

But perhaps the most intriguing hook James delivered to those pondering how involvement in esports could benefit them was that it’s a platform that ‘reaches the unreachable’: millennials. More than 80% of the esports market are in the 18–34 bracket, and although the split is currently 70% male, they are seeing a growing proportion of female participants.

Mo Fadl explained the relevance of esports from a developer’s perspective. He concurred with Mark’s view that it is not ‘sports’ in the traditional sense, but a platform that creates connections and brings people together. Gamers are a global community, with no boundaries worldwide. We need to acknowledge that this is how the next generations will communicate, and we as content creators must choose to influence and drive it, rather than hinder it. It shouldn’t be seen as a bad thing for young people to play games, and it can actually be a tool for a lot of good individually and collectively.

The last point was something that Shahneila Saeed and Mark Ward, who represented the educational angle of esports, both emphasised.

Shahneila, a former IT teacher, runs the Digital Schoolhouse programme for Ukie (UK Interactive Entertainment Association), which aims to bridge the gap between digital educators and digital industry. She argued that in order to want to pursue digital learning, kids need to enjoy the subject at school otherwise they won’t take it. She said that 99% of 8–15 year olds play games, so it makes absolute sense to use games in education – it’s the one medium that cuts across all demographics, so why not use it? To this end, the #DSHesports tournament was created, providing a format where schools can get together with industry professionals in a platform that combines fun with learning about career opportunities in digital.

Mark, a secondary IT/computer science teacher, went on to provide a hugely compelling account of how participating in the Digital Schoolhouse programme esports tournament has literally transformed the interest in digital learning at his school. After his school won the esports tournament, he had to increase the esports lunchtime club he runs from one day a week to five to accommodate the huge interest among pupils. Two of his pupils are going on to study esports at university, and he is also introducing an esports GCSE. The esports club has helped to improve the school attendance of under-achieving boys, and has aided in encouraging children to take responsibility in terms of organising their own tournaments. It has also helped children with low self-esteem find their voice, and has been a life-changing development for him, the school and the children.

The overall message really was: esports is massive and is only going to get bigger – therefore it’s so important that we as creators and influencers embrace this and harness the positive power of the platform.

Tom Jordan

About the author

Tom Jordan

Writer

After working for more than 15 years in travel publishing, writing for National Geographic Traveller, Sunday Times Travel Magazine, Which Travel? and CNN, among others, and editing travel books, including for Bradt Travel Guides, Tom recently made the exciting move into children’s TV in the only logical way possible –… Read more

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