Mayville State University, UND and numerous other regional universities offer video gaming as a team sport. They’re making serious commitments – in funding, recruiting and promotion – to this growing phenomenon.
For instance, the Herald last year reported on UND’s new Nexus center, located in the campus wellness center. The lounge, which features a dozen gaming computers, came after a push from students and administrators. In just a year, the program has grown to involve more than 80 students; a team from UND recently competed against a squad from San Jose State University.
High schools in North Dakota and Minnesota also are moving toward esports and now students from East Grand Forks will too.
At their meeting earlier this week, members of the East Grand Forks School Board unanimously voted for the district to join an esports league after middle and high school students expressed overwhelming interest.
Before anyone scoffs at the idea of video gaming, know this: As many as 350 East Grand Forks students, in grades 6-12, say they have at least some interest in joining this new program.
Esports really are a breakthrough in extracurricular participation and, presumably, in building esprit de corp. Just like in traditional sports, it could even result in a scholarship.
Last year, National Public Radio reported that more than 170 colleges and universities already participate in some sort of competitive gaming, offering upwards of $16 million combined in scholarship money. At least 17 states had high school esports teams, as of the NRP report last year.
This is all good, since it’s a cheap and sustainable way to get kids involved in extracurricular activities, which we believe are so important in learning skills that will be useful later in life.
The cost is low, since there is little gear to buy after some initial startup purchases. The programs appear to have lasting power, since so many youngsters today play video games. Interest certainly is growing.
A CNN report a couple of years ago noted that some 380 million people worldwide watch – not just play, but watch – esports each year.
Since it’s new, some likely will pooh-pooh the idea. Perhaps it doesn’t encourage exercise, like traditional sports. Perhaps it doesn’t require the intricacies of learning an instrument, or overcoming the fear of engaging in debate or, gulp, singing before an audience.
We’re big believers in traditional sports and school activities. Yet if kids are doing something – anything – that helps develop an ability to work in a group, and to learn strategies, responsibilities and leadership, count us in.
And, as we have noted in the past, anything that gets kids wearing their school colors is something that should be strongly encouraged and pursued. For instance, a UND spokesman said students in the university’s esports program have been “enthusiastic about representing UND in a positive light.”
East Grand Forks is making the right choice to move toward esports. Dozens, potentially hundreds, of students in the district will be positively impacted by this decision. Other schools should follow the lead of the esports pioneers.