With the rapidly growing popularity of streaming platforms, such as Twitch and YouTube Gaming, the phenomenon of esports is spreading like wildfire throughout the world. Emboldened by the growing popularity which, in some cases, matches or surpasses that of traditional sports, many young gamers step out of their rooms to find likeminded peers who love what they love. If you like competitive games, joining or starting an esports club can be an incredible experience whose benefits go well beyond the world of gaming.
A changing attitude
As with, e.g. Dungeons & Dragons, the attitude towards gaming has largely changed in recent years, largely thanks to improved accessibility. I strongly believe that there has never been a better time to step out into the limelight with your interests, finding people who share the same passion. Again, similarly to D&D, once people find other people – they form groups, and if there is anything democracy has taught us is that groups are significantly more visible and have more persuasive power to find support for their cause. Schools and universities have been at the forefront of backing such initiatives.
Schools as gaming hubs
Having recognized the interest in gaming, educational institutions have began to support gamers, providing ideas, guidance and opportunities for personal, educational and professional development. With the increasing number of scientific articles appearing on ResearchGate and other platforms pointing out the positive effects of gaming, no wonder that alongside book and movie clubs – esports communities have been forming at schools and universities all over the world, proving that modern gaming is an incredibly social activity with numerous benefits. Some educational facilities organize tournaments with prizes, e.g. to help students pay for college, and they promote esports teams the way they support their traditional student sports divisions. Finding a supportive teacher should not be too difficult these days as some of school staff members are most probably gamers as well.
Friendship and camaraderie
Gone is the stereotype of the isolated kid sitting in a darkly lit room with cans of fizzy drinks. Well, the drinks might actually be there as esports sponsorship is in full swing, but gaming has successfully overcome the stereotype of being a solitary activity. It is very easy to form friendships with people who like the same things, friendships that go outside computer rooms. Teams sometimes go to different places, cities or countries to compete in tournaments, but simply sitting together in a room, coordinating, chatting and having fun are all social activities that benefit people regardless of their age. It’s like couch co-op, but with a bigger group, and anyone who went to internet cafes back in the nineties will be misty-eyed. On a private note, I met one of my best friends playing Warcraft III competitively back in 2002 and we’ve been through a lot together since then. In the apartment I rent, I dedicated one small room to StarCraft 2 and have LAN parties with my team every weekend.
A lot of good things
Aside from the documented benefits of video games, such as improved hand-eye coordination and quick reflexes, playing together and forming a club unites people in the pursuit of common goals, develops teamwork, communication skills, collaboration, prioritizing, tactical and strategic thinking, the ability to cope with success and failure alike. As a young person, it might be the first incentive for travelling with all the aspects connected with this activity. It is also one of the best ways to improve at the game of your choice. I remember being stuck in Platinum for four years, but all I needed was a month of time with the right people to advance to Diamond. Playing and watching replays together, combined with the exchange of feedback can improve your skills more than any tutorial you read or watch online.
Experience for the future
The skills and new interests acquired as a member of an esports club often greatly help in developing a future career outside of competitive gaming. Making videos, programming, streaming, the various aspects of game development, graphic design, management, critical thinking and planning – many of these find use in professional life. There is a very interesting and inspiring video called “StarCraft: Story of GG”, which is available on YouTube, showing how the early years of Starcraft’s esports helped raise a generation of future entrepreneurs in South Korea.
Professional esports clubs are always on the lookout for young talents. If you are better than most players and if a headhunter notices you, you might end up as another member of Team Liquid, OG or fnatic. At that point, many doors open up – fame, fans, media coverage, foreign travel as well as big money, which can be life-changing for young people. Along with it, of course, comes intense practice and pressure, which at some point can be too overwhelming even for the brightest minds. Fortunately, professional teams care about the health of their players, and often employ a number of specialists to ensure all is well.
No reason not to try
Regardless of age, joining an esports club may be a very positive decision. For the older generation, it can provide some respite from professional life and everyday chores. For younger people, it may help form lifelong friendships and develop skills that could be invaluable in future career paths. With gaming and streaming becoming more popular each year, we are bound to witness the formation of more clubs, alongside new games entering the esports arena and more companies supporting and promoting the phenomenon.