With summer upon us and the usual thinking that it’s perfect to spend more time outside, an interesting trend has emerged in the past few years of kids doing the just the opposite: staying inside to play video games. This week, Education Week profiled Philadelphia-based EliteGamingLIVE (EGL), a tech company that tries to combat this movement by focusing on bringing STEM students into the world of esports in a competitive way, as well as setting K-12 students up for careers in gaming. With 91% of students in the U.S. playing video games of some kind, the company’s mission is to use that passion to focus them on relevant studies, instead of letting gaming take away from education.
Brands that have been the most successful in the esports world are those that have fostered the growth of gaming to be more than a “basement hobby,” and these education-based startups provide a foundation to do that for brands that want to jump aboard. EGL takes the excitement kids see around gaming and expands it past picking up a controller, making all participants complete academic courses around video-game-related fields such as audio engineering, coding, VR and more to stay in the competitions. These classes are just as much a part of the competition for kids, as the grades they get from these online courses contribute to a score that ranks them nationally and allows them to represent their school in competitions. Further, the actual EGL competitions are all done in-person, encouraging social skills and cooperation that traditional online-only play suffers from due to anonymity and cyberbullying. One might call it the gamification of education, but for STEM kids who make friends and develop whole communities online, it rewards them for their passions.
This profile doesn’t portray EGL as some juggernaut in the space (i.e. PlayVS remains the official high school sports esports platform, and EGL’s 39 participating schools are dwarfed by the High School Esports League’s 800), but instead illustrates a pattern away from traditional thinking in the gaming world. Kids (13 and under) on average play 11.9 hours of games each week and account for $15B, or ¼ of the gaming’s revenue annually; as the fastest-growing segment of gamers, kids have a tremendous influence on the industry. Because of this power, the competition in the space to get to youth is higher than ever, and companies like EGL make for excellent partners for brands to work with and integrate into their programming.
For brands who are looking at younger demographics (or parents), working with these types of educational organizations could make a real, lasting impact, both by integrating themselves into the world of gaming with an increasingly impactful audience and by destigmatizing gaming as a waste of time. As we see more and more emphasis in the game development for the casual and amateur player, brands that ingratiate themselves early on have a chance to drive preference with gaming fans like a Gatorade or Nike does in traditional sports.