Plenty of organizations and researchers speak about the positive qualities of scholastic esports. I personally see those benefits. But many are unwilling to discuss the two 800-pound gorillas that every school or university faces. These substantive challenges prevent esports from being a healthy and inclusive environment for all students.
First, esports can become a toxic emotional environment due to harassment and bullying during game play. Fun, spirited “trash talk” is the nature of competition, but harassing other players or bullying them – either through game play or via audio conversations via the PC – crosses the line. In fact, a 2019 survey from the Anti-Defamation League found that 65 percent of players reported experiencing “severe harassment” including physical threats, sustained harassing and stalking.
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Addressing the 800-pound gorillas in scholastic esports
Exposure to such behavior, the study shows, found that 23 percent of players became less social and “one in 10 players said they had suicidal thoughts after being harassed while playing online games.” As a result, most K-12 schools report participation in esports play is 95-99+ percent male, despite the fact that females accounted for 46 percent of gamers nationwide.
Second, prolonged play without monitoring of health habits can expose young people to prolonged physical injuries. A 2018 peer-reviewed study from BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine journal found that, among collegiate esports players, 56 percent report eye fatigue, 42 percent report neck and back pain, 36 percent and 32 percent report wrist and hand pain respectively. Despite these high numbers, the journal reports that only 2 percent of players sought medical attention.