Covid-19 Esports Series: Keeping students in the game

Academic Esports Conference speaker Ryan Rogers, professor at Butler University, offers strategies to keep students engaged and staying healthy during the pandemic.
By: | June 8, 2020
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The Academic Esports Conference & Expo is providing technology, academic and esports leaders and professionals with guidance to help navigate the Covid-19 pandemic impacting schools and colleges across the nation. We understand this is a very difficult and unforeseen time in the lives of all educators. As we all work through this together, we are collecting useful insights and strategies from upcoming Academic Esports Conference speakers; plus our magazines, District Administration and University Business, are keeping on top of all the developments and passing helpful information on to you here.

This week, Ryan Rogers, Associate Professor and Academic Coordinator of Esports Programs at Butler University who wrote the book How Video Games Impact Players: The Pitfalls and Benefits of a Gaming Society, offers impactful tips to keep game time relevant during this remote learning period as students and children spend more time in front of a screen playing games:

  1. Keep playing and play more. To know esports or to improve at them, you need to play and practice those games. Currently, esports can be played while many other things can’t take place. If you don’t understand Multiplayer Online Battle Arena games such as League of Legends, this is a great opportunity to learn. If you want to get better with a new Overwatch character, now is the time. This experience will make you better informed and a more valuable voice in the industry. Likewise, don’t suspend existing competition. In fact, create more opportunities for competition in the meantime.
  2. Direct people to esports content: In the wake of mass cancelation of traditional sports, now is the time to create new and loyal esports fans. Many traditional sports fans are hungry for content, and they may be willing to check out esports to fill that gap. However, for many of these people, there are fundamental barriers to entry. Potential fans don’t have a clue how to find an esports competition or which ones are of interest to them. If esports are marketed properly at this point, there could be long-standing gains for the industry.
  3. Revisit your mission, personal goals, and role. For a lot of people involved in esports, the growth and demand has been immense, which can be overwhelming. However, Covid-19 has forced many individuals and organizations to slow down some previously fast-paced initiatives. When we get caught up in the exponential growth of esports, it is easy to lose sight of our original mission. Take this break in the action to assess what is important to you regarding esports and reorient yourself according to your personal goals and roles in that domain.
  4. Reevaluate treating esports as sports. A common reaction to the pandemic is that while traditional sporting events have stopped, esports events can thrive. This is accurate to a degree, however, the esports industry at large has made many efforts to emulate traditional sports, most notably in creating in-person events. It is my opinion that the esports industry has tried to blur the line between esports and traditional sports to legitimize esports and make them more palatable to resistant audiences. The unintended consequence is that some esports events are now suffering in the same way as traditional sporting events. The Overwatch League had to postpone scheduled in-person matches. This raises a question about how much we should try to make esports analogous to sports in general. In some ways, this mentality has robbed esports of what makes it special and unique.
  5. Zoom out. The pandemic and corresponding stay-at-home orders have put unprecedented stress on our internet infrastructure. Beyond that, many players and fans may live where they do not have internet access necessary for esports viewing and playing. This should make us examine the quality of our nationwide internet infrastructure and discuss what steps should or should not be taken moving forward. Consider that the next “Michael Jordan” of esports may not have a stable internet connection at home and will not get the opportunity to participate.

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Full Academic Esports Conference Agenda: Check out all of the speakers and sessions slated for the inaugural event here.