Expert Viewpoint

Five Steps to Creating a Winning Esports Space At Any School

Esports — a trendier and more concise way to say “competitive online video-gaming” — has grown in popularity in the K–12 space. STEM teacher and Garden State Esports founder Chris Aviles says that scholastic esports between schools provides the same social and emotional learning benefits as traditional athletics. Teamwork, leadership and a sense of belonging all ooze through the esports space, which can also be used to teach subjects from career and technical education and literacy to STEM.

Projected to surpass $1.8 billion in revenues this year, the esports ecosystem racked up nearly 27 million viewers in 2021, an increase of more than 11% over the prior year. On the educational front, the North America Scholastic Esports Federation provides opportunities for students to use esports to develop STEM- and STEAM-based skills. It produces a free state-approved curriculum that can be used during the day or after school.

Kids that gravitate toward esports may be less apt to join a sports team or an after-school club: about 80% of esports teams comprise students who have never participated in extracurricular activities before. Esports create an inclusive environment for a broader range of students and teach participating students how to work together by communicating and collaborating with each other. Esports players also spend time analyzing plays, game statistics, and strategic planning — all skills that directly correlate to college and career success.

Key Steps to Creating a Successful Esports Program at Your School

Creating a school esports team and designing an effective space for that team are the keys to having an engaged, successful group of players. Here are five tips for designing an esports space that rocks:

1. Convert an existing space. Consider building out a multipurpose makerspace that can also flex to a gaming room or a space for CTE programs. Existing computer and science labs are a great place to start since they already have an effective gaming room layout and ergonomic seating for players.

2. Design for function and health. Esports players spend hours engaging in play, so comfortable chairs and proper posture are critical. Ergonomic seating, height-adjustable chairs with armrests, adjustable cushions, and back support are ideal for esports applications.

3. Create a break room or rest area. Esports is a sedentary extracurricular activity, so it’s important to consider the health implications of sitting for three to four hours at a computer screen. Students need space where they can stand up, move around, and stretch between games, as well as a lounging spot where they can give their eyes a break from screens after an intense match.

4. Equip the shoutcasting station. The running commentary of esports matches, known as “shoutcasting,” entertains and educates the viewer and is a crucial part of what makes esports so engaging. Schools should incorporate multiple power outlets for mixers, keyboards, stream decks, and other tech devices that help capture game plays and make esports competitions engaging.

5. Encourage collaboration. Comfortable seating combined with mobile whiteboards or whiteboard tables encourages a collaborative approach to esports planning and debriefing sessions. Large video monitors can be used for analyzing replays and brainstorming new strategies. These meeting areas can be outfitted with soft seating for when players collaborate and talk to their peers, sponsors and/or coaches.

Esports spaces should reflect the virtual fantasy worlds and innovative games that these students play and compete in. Coordinate with team colors or gaming equipment colors by using a blend of complementary hues for your fabrics and furniture. Players and observers should be able to “feel” the energy in the room during competitions, so keep that in mind as you design the space.

About the Author

Christina Counts, Ph.D., is Vice President of Education at MiEN Company.