07/06/2021 Jo Robertson2 years ago Author:
My son loves Rocket League and as far as I can tell he’s really good at it. But I worry it will end up being a replacement for real sport. When his youth football team came to an end this summer after nine years of Saturday morning matches and weeknight training, I met a bit of a brick wall when I asked what he wanted to do instead. He’d just finished exams and the dangling carrot that had been keeping him going is having lots of time to play Rocket League with no revision to do first.
He’s not alone, there’s a growing desire amongst young gamers to climb the ladder of esports success But when I hear of some children claiming they need to leave school to pursue the game professionally, alarm bells start ringing. It’s like the new version of your child wanting to be a premiership footballer. The chances of it happening are low but how do parents balance that youthful ambition?
When I tell people my son is into esports, they look confused. “Esports? What’s that?’” A short time ago I had the same reaction. So I decided to look into it for myself. Something that helped was during lockdown when there was no live sport on TV, the BBC were showing esports matches instead.
Having enjoyed this on iPlayer, I watched my son play and even had a go myself. One evening the whole family got together and he attempted to teach us how to play. It’s fast paced but on the easier settings even I could get the car to go in the right direction.
The term esports is used to describe competitive video gaming; games which are played human versus human. There are lots of games online which fit in the esports category like Rocket League, League of Legends and newly released game Knockout City.
At higher competition levels, esports games can be played in teams and showcased in auditoriums with a live audience. Esports is mixed gender, so does away with the divides of gendered teams like we get in football. There are no limits in terms of physical ability, so it is hugely inclusive.
Schools and colleges are getting in on the act. Ukie’s Digital Schoolhouse organises school based tournaments. It’s a great way of getting children to engage with digital education in a new and interesting way and develops many skills which will be of benefit when seeking employment. As well as the educational benefits, it encourages collaboration and has been found to nurture an interest in other team sports. With 99% of children ages 9-15 playing video games already, it’s great that young people are being offered the chance to gain more skills from what they already love.
After looking into esports, I had quite a different perspective from when I set-out. Competitors who do well are those with a disciplined outlook, who have patience, resilience and commitment. Many of the skills they learn in school are exactly what they need to do well - quite the opposite of needing to drop out. They need to look after their physical and mental health to ensure they can compete at the higher levels. The more I read about it, the more I could see how calling it a sport made sense.
I know that my son will continue to enjoy all kinds of competitive sports both on and offline, outside and inside. His nine years of football taught him a lot about being part of a team and losing graciously. As he goes to college, as well as studying PE A-level, he already has his eye on joining the esports team. Whether he continues rising through the ranks or not, like football, I know he will get a lot from his effort and involvement. Maybe even a future career?
The Family Video Game Database has information on the various Esports games and gives you jargon free information on what’s available. It gives the age appropriate ratings and an idea of the time commitment of different games and which ones might suit your child. Other competitive games lists include Outwit the Crowd in Online Battles, Mechanical Challenge, Compete on the Couch.
If you want more information on esports, or support if you are concerned your child is playing too much, the following organisations are excellent (also do get in touch with us if you just want to talk to other parents):
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