Video games, as with all gaming, have almost always included a competitive element, even in the earliest video games such as Pong. However, it wasn’t until the early 2000s that technological innovations provided the environment for esports to thrive. Broadband Internet allowed gamers to join multiplayer competitions, first through local area network connections (a LAN party) and later through wireless ones.
With this rise in popularity has also come a rise in the professionalization of gaming. Professional esports competitors routinely earn thousands of dollars, and the largest competitions can have purses totaling in the millions of dollars. And, it is estimated that in 2019, nearly half a billion people will watch esports online or at a competition, which is more than just about any other professional sport.
It’s no surprise, then, that this popularity has trickled down first to colleges and universities, and now to K-12 schools. Many high schools adopt a gradual approach to implementing an esports program. They might start by providing a space for students to bring in their own gaming consoles and compete against one another after school.
This paper will help educators and leaders begin to understand the esports movement and how they can leverage the excitement and engagement that have fueled the growth of this industry over the past few years. It will do this by reviewing four areas: what esports are, what the benefits of esports are for K-12 education, how to start an esports program, and what type of hardware is required for an esports program.
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