The excitement of esports arrives to HCISD

To some people, the act of playing video games might appear to be a series of recurring mindless clicks and presses on a keyboard or game controller. However, when you look at esports, a form of organized and competitive gaming, the many benefits it can provide become obvious. Esports allow participants opportunities to develop critical thinking, communication, and problem-solving skills.

During the summer, the Afterschool Centers on Education (ACE) program at HCISD continued to engage students digitally, and one of the virtual classes they offered was on esports.

 “Our goal with esports is for students to learn valuable life skills such as teamwork, time management, social skills, strategic thinking, problem-solving, coordination, and goal setting,” ACE Project Director, Jesus Saldivar said. “Students will also be introduced to various STEM-related career fields in esports such as computer science, game design, and animation.”

Aaron Gomez, ACE Coordinator at Coakley Middle School, hosted a virtual esports class this summer. Students had an opportunity to learn gaming strategies for the Super Smash Bros. Nintendo Switch game in this course.

“It was a fantastic experience,” Gomez said. “I did not expect the students to catch on as quickly as they did. Their attention throughout the classes was absolutely impeccable, and it made the class easy and fun for my students and me. While this experience was an absolute joy to teach, I cannot wait to experience this class in person.”

Now, Gutierrez Middle School of Arts and Sciences will be offering this opportunity through their ACE program next school year. The class will start in a digital format, and it will prepare students for an in-person course when it becomes available.

“We have always provided courses related to the arts and sciences, but we can now expand our offerings with esports,” Gutierrez Middle School of Arts and Sciences Library Media Specialist, Veronica Baca said. “Esports can provide rich interactions among all students, set positive academic habits, and even increase school attendance.”

The benefits it can provide and the skills that can be learned through this program extend beyond middle school and high school. More than 200 colleges offer esports scholarships. Students interested in video games can now engage that passion and steer it into a viable career path.

“Esports have much more to offer,” Baca said. “Our students will be provided with options in other STEM & CTE related fields such as marketing, programming, gaming design, and digital animation. It will allow our students to compete against other middle school students around the state of Texas. This is a great opportunity for our students and the HCISD community because it will make us stronger.”

The Gutierrez campus will be working with The Texas Scholastic Esports Federation (TEXSEF) to provide this opportunity to students. TEXSEF is a non-profit organization that provides league management, curriculum resources, and a learning network to Texas schools.

“We bring schools from across the state together to compete in esports titles such as Rocket League, Overwatch, League of Legends, Smash Bros., Madden, NBA2K, and FIFA,” President/CEO of TEXSEF, Greg Kite said. “We also develop curriculum and resources to help individual coaches prepare for their club activities, and districts incorporate esports into their curriculum to promote college and career readiness in their esports-loving student bases.”

Usually, TEXSEF competitions take place in one room. However, the current pandemic and social distancing guidelines have affected how this program is run. Now, everyone involved will be connecting from home. The digital environment of esports allows for a smooth transition from in-person to at-home participation. Students can connect and compete from home until everyone can return safely to school.

“Schools should always be seeking to meet students where they are,” Kite said. This is an opportunity to allow a group of students who might be traditionally disconnected from their school to become a part of something bigger than them, proudly compete for their schools, develop leadership and communication skills, and—most importantly—have fun.”

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