As Esports have grown in popularity, high schools and colleges have begun establishing Esports teams and engaging in scholastic competition. In the past few years, a handful of schools, out-of-school learning programs, and education intermediaries in southwestern PA have brought Esports programs to their students in the form of afterschool clubs, sports leagues, and even elective courses. In December 2022, 9 area high schools participated in the Rocket League Winter Classic Championship hosted at Waynesburg University.
Duquesne City Schools is among the school districts in the Pittsburgh area offering Esports opportunities to their students. In August 2022, the school added a new elective course option in Esports for 7th and 8th grade students. The school recently opened an area and an Esports club, which competes with other schools.
We spoke with Duquesne K-8 Principal Eric Harper to learn more about what Esports has meant for students at Duquesne.
Rebecca Case: What is your background with Esports? What drew you to the world of Esports?
Eric Harper: I do not have a background in Esports. Esports seemed like an excellent idea when introduced. I mean what kid doesn’t like video games, right? Our students love to do hands-on things and gaming is definitely hands on.
RC: Have you noticed any changes in the Esports program as it has grown?
EH: I can say that it’s hard getting students to leave the Esports gaming arena once they get started. It went from just a few people wanting to play to everyone that gets to see the arena wants to play now.
RC: How has Esports impacted learners in the region?
EH: Esports allows students to network with other gamers that they may not have had the opportunity to meet or game with if it wasn’t for this platform.
RC: How has the rise of Esports created challenges, questions, and/or opportunities for educators and education as a whole?
EH: Esports teaches skills such as: teamwork, collaboration, etc. I know that there’s also a platform that teaches our students mini sessions on things such as good hygiene, healthy study habits, and managing emotions. etc. just to name a few. This is offered through a variety of social skills you can access when navigating the Esports curriculum.
What potential future do you see for Esports as they relate to education?
EH: I can see Esports being a global phenomenon. Kids are using the skills they’ve learned from gaming to land great jobs within the Artificial Intelligence community.