It was nearly a decade ago, sitting in my classroom, when the importance of esports in high school first occurred to me. I held a student back. He’d been troublesome as usual that day. His work hadn’t been done, he was actively not taking notes, and had missed his retest window. I wanted to figure out what the deal was, what I needed to consider in order to help him find the motivation to excel. After all, it wasn’t a one-time occurrence; he was failing nearly all of his classes.
“I’m competitive,” he admitted after a few minutes. “I don’t like those games though,” he added when I did what any high school teacher would do and suggested basketball or football or tennis or soccer, as if he hadn’t thought of those himself already.
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“Then what?” I pressed. “What is your game? What is it that you get fired up about?” His answer was video games.
Video games were a waste of time and gamers are delinquents and social misfits. That’s what the media was telling us all in the early twenty-teens. My youth was spent as a gamer–Dungeons and Dragons and Live-Action Role Playing Games, and yes, the now-retro classics on Nintendo. I was competitive too, but with team activities. I spent a number of years before that playing World of Warcraft. I was, even in that moment, spending my evenings practicing League of Legends in order to compete that very weekend in an online tournament. I had no chance of winning, because a few teams had players from the Collegiate League who were using my forum’s little weekend tournament as a grinding and practice space between matches in their regular league.