It may not have seemed possible just a decade ago, but esports are primed to surpass some of the very sports they were built to simulate —both in terms of viewership and participation.
According to industry consultants and research institutions, professional esports leagues are expected to surpass the NBA, MLB, and NHL, leaving the NFL as the only national league with more attention. The growth process is accelerating thanks to social platforms like Twitch that allow fans to view their favorite gamers live at any time. Over the past year and a half, the industry saw further growth due to global lockdowns and a long hiatus for both professional and recreational athletics.
But with all this hype surrounding the boom in online games, the industry is still fraught with issues, particularly when it comes to harassment, bullying, and generally toxic behaviour.
Just like the comment sections on Instagram, Twitter, and Youtube, online gaming platforms allow users to anonymously interact with people from around the world while playing. Microphones and chat features that are designed to improve player performance through communication are often commandeered by trolls looking to denigrate other players. This is particularly true for female, non-hetersexual, racialized groups, and young gamers.
The Rise of Youth Esports Leagues
Despite the propensity for negative online interactions, gaming consoles have always been popular among younger audiences. From classic games like Pokemon and Super Mario to their modern-day equivalents, the gaming industry thrives on participation from youth. Parents, educators, and other community members often worry about the amount of time children spend “playing games,” but research reveals that these are misguided concerns.
For example, a 2016 study from the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University finds that high video game usage amongst children from the ages of six to eleven is actually associated with improvements in both cognitive function and performance in educational settings. Since then, numerous studies and research projects have investigated how video games are beneficial for things like neurodevelopment, inclusion, and collaborative learning. The latter, in particular, is driving investment into children’s esports leagues.
Organizations like the International Esports Federation (IeSF) are helping change the narrative surrounding youth esports performance. As more and more people become aware of how gaming builds important skills in communication, problem-solving, and teamwork, other institutions are now looking to leverage these leagues for the developmental benefit of kids.
From schools to community centers, interest in esports leagues is on the rise. But that still leaves administrators, parents, and teachers with the challenge of maintaining youth safety in the wild west of online gaming.
Keeping Kids Safe with Children’s Esports Leagues
The news cycle is chock-full of horror stories about the digital world. Cyberbullying, predatory harassment, and other forms of toxic behavior are common occurrences in unregulated online environments and produce devastating effects. This makes many parents and caretakers hesitant when approached by a child showing interest in esports participation. Balancing the benefits of productive gaming versus the possibility of harassment is difficult calculus to perform. Thankfully, with the emergence of Children’s esports leagues, the deliberation process is no longer necessary.
By curating an environment with appropriate games, age restrictions, and esports coaching, these youth development leagues allow children to gain confidence in their abilities while greatly reducing the chances of harmful interactions. These little-league-style esports groups match kids with friends and players of similar skills and then provide them with training and guidance in a fun, inclusive environment. As their skills develop, children can progress through the league ranks, master a new domain or simply continue to enjoy their favorite games!
Here are some of the features of children’s esports leagues that make them so ideal for alternative online education, socialization, and skill-building:
Membership is exclusive to children within a certain age bracket
Mini leagues are formed around skill-level
Expert training in a series of popular, age-appropriate games
Monitoring and esports coaching from experienced gamers
An inclusive, safe environment free of negativity and harassment
Collaborative performance with friends and teammates
One of the most beneficial aspects of children’s esports leagues is the presence of esports coaching experts.
Benefits of Esports Coaching
Just like a rec basketball or baseball league has coaches to teach kids the basics of play, teamwork, and sportsmanship, youth esports coaches have the experience and skills to make a positive impact on the lives of youth. Quality esports coaching is key to creating a league that is inclusive, informative, and enjoyable!
Inclusion: The esports world can be difficult for girls, racialized children, and those who are differently-abled. Esports coaches come from various backgrounds and act as role models for children who may not otherwise feel represented by the industry. Visibility and support are crucial — even in the online space.
Informative: We now know video games are more than just hobbies; they actively build skills that are important in the real world. From intellectual development to improving communication, esports coaches help children progress through gaming challenges in a stepwise manner that builds off previous success.
Enjoyable: One of the major challenges in traditional education is making learning fun: esports is emerging as a highly entertaining educational tool and potential solution to this issue. Esports coaching allows children to participate in a variety of structured gaming environments where fun and improvement are the desired outcome!
As esports continues to surpass major athletics leagues in viewership and influence, it’s increasingly important that parents, teachers, and community administrators look to new ways of integrating children into online gaming. So, if you are interested in getting your child, student, or community youth into a children’s esports league that offers safe learning and experienced coaching, reach out to the experts at Vanta Leagues today!
We provide several camps, master classes, and gaming leagues based on age and skill level. Our methods ensure that kids have the protection and supervision they need while learning the ins and outs of the exciting esports space!