The world of esports has evolved into one of the fastest-growing forms of entertainment in media, shifting the perception of gaming from a leisurely activity to an organized sport. However, many parents still wonder if esports is bad for their athletes compared to physical sports.
From high school amateur leagues and collegiate varsity clubs to professional leagues and organizations, esports is undoubtedly growing globally. Complete with coaches, athletic trainers, nutritionists, and even mental health experts working closely with the top players, today's competitive gamers are well equipped with resources to help them deal with the rigors of competing at such a high level.
While gaming has received significant attention from the scientific community, esports research remains in its infancy. Earlier research was completed with the intent to highlight the presumed negative consequences of esports. It is also difficult to ignore the typical stereotypes that have arisen over the years surrounding avid gamers today. However, new studies counter these stereotypes causing a paradigm shift in views of the value of gaming and esports. Researchers recognize that gaming at a high level can positively impact players' physiological, sociological, and psychological factors. In fact, in a study by Oxford University, researchers found that the time gamers spent playing video games was positively attributed to their well-being.
Daphne Bavelier, director of the Rochester Center for Brain Imaging, and her colleagues at the University of Toronto found in their study Action Video Game Play Facilitates the Development of Better Perceptual Templates that cognitive benefits exist to playing video games. They found that gaming can improve the player's attention control. These findings contradict the belief that video games reduce students' ability to pay attention in less stimulating academic settings. "Players are fast learners, which allows them to master new spatial and movement rules more quickly," she said at a symposium at the International Mind, Brain, and Education Society meeting. "Gamers develop better attention and inhibitory control, allowing them to identify important information in highly distracting environments, and to play and control their reaction much more tightly."
In other words, gaming at high-intensity levels allows players to control their reactions better, respond faster and make better decisions. The study recognized how these gamers excelled at simultaneously tracking multiple items and improving performance in high-level cognitive tasks such as mental rotation and multitasking compared to non-gamers.
While gaming at a high level can benefit a player's cognitive function, it can also help benefit a player's character development. Similar to traditional sports, esports requires effective communication, teamwork, and critical thinking. California State University, Dominguez Hills esports (CSUDH) models its program as a strategy for student success. In their infographic, Why Esports in Education is Beneficial for Students     ," CSUDH highlights several areas in which esports can positively impact students: Promoting student empowerment and self-confidence
- Builds empathy and improves social behavior
- Encourages collaboration and problem solving
- Boosts student motivation and develops leadership skills
- Fosters good sportsmanship by teaching how to learn from failure/defeat
- Enhances memory capacity and retention of knowledge
- Expands on digital literacy
- Builds students' social and emotional learning
- Boosts strategic thinking and resilience
Opportunities in esports can enrich a student's social well-being by creating a safe space and environment for players to collaborate in-person and online. Esports experiences have also evolved to become a proven way for players to make personal connections, build relationships, and improve interpersonal skills, which are all important components of social health and well-being.
While instances of bullying and toxicity still occur within the industry, Alexis "alexis" Guarrasi, a member of the all-women professional esports team, Cloud9 White, argues in defense of esports as a safe place. "Esports as a whole is not dangerous," she says. "Casual gaming is more dangerous than esports and can be extremely toxic. If you're in esports, it really is a tight-knit community of people that just want to get better at the game. Honestly, I see no downsides to letting your child compete. I think it's great!"
Naturally, parents will be concerned about developing their young gamers as they take their passion for gaming to the next level of esports. However, research and experience support the idea that esports can positively benefit the lives of young men and women. Resources have also become more readily available to esports players, which not only helps them to compete but also helps them maintain a healthy life balance.