Career Success Built on Esports Skills

Esports are not only extremely popular, they also provide an environment for learning critical skills for career success. Seem crazy?! Consider that Al Mijares, Ph.D., the Superintendent of Schools for all of Orange County, is encouraging students to join the Orange County High School Esports League. Education experts from UC Irvine, Cal State Fullerton, and Chapman University enthusiastically support the League and its educational potential.

Dr. Mimi Ito, Professor of Cultural Anthropology at UC Irvine, researches how young people engage with digital technology. “Esports provides a way for young people to hang out with their friends in a really active and positive way,” she says. She recognizes the amount of work it takes to get good at games like League of Legends (the platform used by the OC High School Esports League). “Students are engaged in 21st century skills and problem-solving, and they’re understanding how to connect their own problem-solving with a whole community of players.”

A recent article in The Washington Post demonstrated the importance of those “soft skills” to today’s working world. The Post cited a study conducted by Google to identify the top characteristics of its successful employees. Surprisingly, they were not specific STEM skills like engineering, but soft skills:

  • being a good coach
  • communicating and listening well
  • possessing insights into others (including others different values and points of view)
  • having empathy toward and being supportive of one’s colleagues
  • being a good critical thinker and problem solver
  • being able to make connections across complex ideas

In this video, Dr. Constance Steinkuehler, Professor of Informatics at UC Irvine, explains that gaming is also a very cerebral activity. As with any activity, getting good at games and esports takes a lot of work and hours of discipline. “The idea that games are barren intellectually is foolish,” she says. Esports “takes screen time and turns it into activity time.”

Tiffany Bui, a biology teacher at Mission Viejo High School, is the General Manager for the school’s esports team. “There’s a lot of team building and problem solving that happens while playing in the League,” she says. “It doesn’t feel like learning to the kids because they’re having so much fun, but they are! Through the coaching and development, each student is improving as a person and a player. In just a few short weeks, I’ve watched their communication skills improve, seen them cross language barriers and gender stereotypes to welcome new players to the team, and observed them trying new maneuvers and adjusting their gameplay to adapt to each other’s styles and strengths. It’s all very exciting!”

The League is built on an esports platform of gameplay and high school rivalries. As they participate, students are gaining skills in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), English language arts, and developing crucial soft skills needed in the workplace. Educators see that as a win-win (no matter which team wins the games!).