ESports and Competitive Gaming

Find out what ESports is, why it's so popular and how can you can keep a young ESports gamer safe online

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Our gaming topics page has taken an in-depth look into how gaming has evolved over the years. Gaming has certainly changed since the days of Gameboys and the now extinct PlayStation 2, and as we’ve seen, it is fast becoming one of the most accessible forms of entertainment, particularly amongst young people. They are now being given vast opportunities to up their gaming skills and compete against others online. In the gaming world, ESports gives them the biggest opportunity of them all!

Before we delve further into ESports, you might be wondering what it is. Well, ESports, or ‘Electronic Sports’ is a competitive form of gaming, where professional gamers play for (sometimes) big money prizes, certificates or awards. For a game to be classed as an ‘ESports game’ it needs to feature a heavily competitive element where gamers can interact with others online, or in a physical setting.

The Impact of ESports and Competitive Gaming

People can take part in competitive gaming tournaments as an individual or as part of a team. As of 2021, these were the top 5 games that allowed fans to turn their favourite hobby into a passion or career. According to ‘European Gaming’ the top five competitive games are:

  1. Dota 2

  2. Fortnite

  3. League of Legends

  4. Overwatch

  5. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

Other popular and recognisable titles, not mentioned in this list, include Rocket League and any latest editions of the Fifa franchise. 

ESports is only gaining popularity worldwide with interest also steadily growing in the UK. To emphasise its popularity, a 2020 survey from Barclays showed that 68% of 8-18 year olds in the UK would ‘choose a career in gaming over becoming a lawyer’ There are definite benefits to competitive gaming which is why it’s no surprise that we are seeing this increase in popularity. To cater to this increase, academic ESports teams have also become more common.

The British ESports Association are particularly ‘leading the way in ESports education’ by developing the world’s first BTEC in the genre. Alongside this, ESports academies and courses are starting to become more widely available in the UK. For example Exeter College, in the South West, recently opened their ESports academy and are developing more ways for people to get involved, including hosting the first corporate ‘ESports Tournament’ in the region.

This growth around competitive gaming means it will have a larger impact on young people in more ways than we first thought. As young people are being offered more opportunities to venture into this immersive gaming experience, let’s take a look at how they can benefit from taking part.

Benefits of ESports and Competitive Gaming

Those involved in tournaments (in big venues, classrooms or in their bedroom) play and communicate with others. Those who chose to venture into ESports at school or college, will also spend more time with classmates who are part of their team. In-person tournaments rely heavily on spectators, again adding another big social element to this gaming genre.

These social aspects can go on to improve confidence and communication skills, whilst giving young people the opportunity to spend more time with their peers and others who have similar interests.

Taking part in a team building activity like this develops leadership, character development, and problem solving skills. It can prompt fast decision making; all of which are positive traits for young people to have when they venture into further education, work and other aspects of adult life.

Having a hobby that brings so many positive benefits can help towards building self-esteem. Finding something that we’re good at and something that we enjoy enhances our self-worth, which in turn has a positive effect on our mental wellbeing. Many young people can suffer with low self-esteem, but generally, finding a hobby that’s social and highly interactive, like ESports, can combat those negative feelings.

Last year the University of Roehampton began offering ESports scholarships and the first recipient of this gave an insight into how ESports will open doors for others:

“It’s going to create more jobs, with lawyers required to help professionals with contracts and media rights. I hope to find a position at a law firm specialising in ESports, and to become an expert in this relatively nascent field. There are plenty of other opportunities for passionate gamers to explore careers in the wider sector and so far, I have found it to be a friendly, collaborative industry eager to help the next generation turn their hobby into a career.”

This example shows that competitive gaming is creating a range of avenues for young people to go down and as seen in this report, the sector is composed of a diverse and wide range of participants and businesses which will only strengthen competitive gaming opportunities.

Considerations for Competitive Gaming

Here, we have touched on just a few of the benefits that the world of ESports can bring. However, like any form of gaming, competitive play does have some negatives, due to the high social and competitive nature that surrounds it. Let’s explore a few considerations for you to take into account, so you can support any young, avid gamer.

Online socialising can be fun, but sometimes gamers will encounter trolls or those who will speak to a gamer in an aggressive or inappropriate manner. If a young gamer experiences a negative encounter, it’s important to talk to them about this and to encourage implementing privacy functions to prevent such encounters from happening again. 

Parents or players can turn off communication features, mute voice chat and report other players who behave inappropriately. Develop your knowledge around games and console settings to ensure that a young gamer in your care can enjoy these interactive experiences. 

Competitive gameplay can increase the amount of pressure that a young person might feel – make sure that young participants take plenty of breaks to ease this pressure and reiterate that wellbeing comes first. If pressure is stopping the activity from being enjoyable, they can walk away and try something different, even if it’s just for a short amount of time.

Many competitive gamers can game for hours on end. This means that they will be staring at a screen for long durations and they won’t be particularly active. Encouraging screen breaks and physical exercise will have a positive impact on a young person’s health and lifestyle. To improve the amount of screen time, you can also set limits on how long a young person can play.

Competitive gaming is social, which as we’ve explained has its benefits, however, if participants are spending a lot of time on this hobby, they are limiting face to face interactions, which allow us to develop deeper and more meaningful connections.

Remind a young person in your care that although they can continue socialising online, they must also balance this interactivity with physical socialising.

In most cases, online socialising means that gamers are interacting with people that they don’t know. It’s great to form positive relationships, in any walk of life, but the fact that gamers are faced with anonymity means that they mustn’t share any personal information with other participants. Similarly, gamers shouldn’t respond to scams, or inappropriate communication.  Develop your child’s or pupil’s knowledge around scams and what is deemed inappropriate, so they can recognise these instances. Talking to a young person about creating healthy boundaries like these, allows you to make sure they are socialising safely. 

If you would like to discover further information and resources about gaming safety, you can access our informative ‘guidance for parents’ leaflet.

All hobbies or passions has its positives and negatives and we have explored the ones around competitive gaming to ensure that ESports fans in your home or classroom can fully enjoy the experience. As we’ve touched upon, ESports is a growing industry and it’s likely that a child or teenager will want to ‘press start’ on their competitive gaming adventure, whether online or at school or college. We hope we have given you the information and advice you need to help steer them in the right direction!

ESports Case Study – Exeter College

If you would like to see what else the gaming world has to offer, take a look at our gaming topics page which will be regularly updated with fun and informative resources! Stay up to date with all of our online safety news, guidance and advice by subscribing to our newsletter!