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Gaming Tech Talk: Creating a Pipeline from Elementary to Professional

Esports is a thing.

How do we support it? In order to understand how to support the industry, we have to know what the current infrastructure is and where we can provide the best area of support. Since that conversation is worthy of scholarly work, I’m going to talk about how we can foster a stronger pipeline of candidates in the esports industry overall.

From my conversations with esports folks, teachers, and skeptics, the only things we need in order to create an esports/gaming club is 1.) Interest and 2.) Structure. If there is interest in playing videogames from individuals then an organization, district, or entitiy can provide structure around it. From an esports standpoint, individuals need to be versed in the appropriate mechanics of the console/PC used and the type of gameplay mechanics involved with each game. The best will become professionals and those that are not will compete for those spots. So how do we build players and coaches and managers and recruiters and marketers and analysts and developers and programmers and event organizers and lawyers and all other persons into an organic pipeline?

Simple.

Start the conversation in elementary education. Many schools and districts are using devices in the classroom in some capacity. In a previous blog, I wrote about my experience presenting to kindergarten students about my job that turned into a conversation about gaming. Apps are played on iPads, Chromebooks, and other devices in order to engage students. By looking at the ESRB ratings we can see which games are available for the classroom and how we can use it as a learning tool in the classroom. Fortunately, Minecraft: Education Edition is specifically designed to engage students in gameplay AND create learning opportunities from it. Minecraft: Education Edition is a PC based game and is capable of gameplay on device under $200. In order to move the character in this PC game, students must use the W,A,S,D, keys. These are the same keys used in several PC based games. By practicing this keyboard style, students will be able to familiarize themselves with other PC based games that are more advanced.

If students in kindergarten start understanding the basic mechanics of manipulating software, the students are gaining a stronger familiarity with the hardware component and familiarity with using gaming as a learning tool. Microsoft offers a video game to be used as a learning tool and has curriculum already built around it. Minecraft: Education Edition includes 500+ lesson plans ranging all curriculum styles, plus there are more being made. By engaging students with Minecraft: Education Edition in the classroom we are able to check off several benefits like engaging the keyboard and mouse in a gaming environment, collaborating with peers in a virtual environment, and preparing for the future of a gamer if they elect to use another computer after elementary school.

Since there are roughly 180 days of the school year, that leaves many lesson plans unused and able to scaffold for future years with a game rated E for Everyone. As students showcase their interest further, more and other games may be introduced. Minecraft: Education is a very powerful tool that can be used to engage learning and build a foundation for future PC players. Outside of Minecraft: Education Edition, students are able to engage in console gameplay with the good old fashion Minecraft game available on Xbox.

Console games require a different interface. Since there is not a keyboard and mouse, the avatar is manuevered by controllers. There are several esports games like Madden, NBA 2K20 and many more played in college and professional leagues. Understanding the mechanics of the controller and how to interface with a console is just as important as a keyboard for some gaming professionals. Once again, Minecraft is a game rated E for everyone therefore could engage in the younger grades. Although traditional Minecraft lacks some additional features for coding as found in the Minecraft: Education Edition, there is creative expression and learning opportunities available. Minecraft and Minecraft: Education Edition both offer the basic fundamentals when it comes to gameplay with a PC or with a console.

Fundamentals is key in sports. Running, breathing, posture, technique are taught in traditional sports like football, baseball, golf, ballet, and most others. The same ought to be said about our esports. Foster the passion for gaming by teaching the mechanics. Teaching our students in grade school how to engage in gameplay and how to engage in gameplay with others grows more important each day. Without structure our students do not have any guiding principles of best practices or new practices to foster better digital citizenship. Structuring how students play may yield more benefits than previously anticipated. Through structuret he top video game players, the esports industry is now worth over $1 billion and growing.

Without our educators engaging in the conversation around gaming in the classroom as a learning tool and after school as a competitive sport, the esports industry will have fewer high caliber participants behind the scenes. If our educators speak to the gaming industry as a viable career path, more students may be interested in furthering their education (especially if scholarships are available)

Could you imagine how much more we could grow with some more engagement and structure?

 

-Tyler Rising, Computer Science Advocate

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