Once viewed as more of a distraction than a learning opportunity, video games are now finding their place in the modern classroom. For Bass High School in Sydney, the META High School Esports League is resulting in positive learning outcomes, encouraging students to improve their communication, teamwork and leadership skills.
Developed by the Adelaide Football Club in partnership with Riot Games and with sponsorship support from Acer and Intel, the META High School Esports League is an initiative that provides schools across Australia and New Zealand with access to local and national leagues, training, development and esports arenas. It offers infrastructure and support to schools, enabling students to further develop their skills and passion in esports, while aiming to improve student engagement and school attendance, and currently has more than 1500 students involved.
“The META Esports League is instrumental in helping high schools in Australia to shift their thinking towards esports and help students unlock formative life skills, such as self-discipline and the ability to deal with adversity. Acer is proud to support META and be part of a movement that goes beyond non-traditional teaching methods to tap into what students are interested in today,” explains Darren Simmons, Oceanic Managing Director at Acer.
“Competitive gaming can not only help facilitate improved social and academic progress, it can also teach skills that are translated into everyday life, promoting team spirit and friendship, as well as allowing natural leaders to emerge. We have seen this firsthand through Acer’s annual Predator League tournament, and felt it was important to support a local education initiative, giving students access to the opportunities that esports provides as an alternative to traditional school sports.”
Bass High School is one of approximately 30 schools in New South Wales and 150 schools across Australia and New Zealand participating in the league. The school started its esports club in late 2018 when first-year teacher in Technology and Applied Studies, Tracy Ge, convinced the school’s leadership team of its potential benefits for students involved. When META expanded into Oceania in 2019, the school’s team joined the Australia and New Zealand competition.
“During the initial stages of trying to launch an esports club at the school, the idea wasn’t perceived very well. There was a view that gaming led to violence and wasn’t educational. But once the school’s senior executives recognised the positive aspects of esports, they decided to give it a go – and it’s brought a lot of change to the school,” says Ms Ge.
As a high school student, Ms Ge played traditional sports such as basketball and netball, as well as video games. “From personal experience, I found video games had many aspects that were just like the real world,” she says.
“Esports encourages students to work together, use effective communication and build resilience under pressure. It also helps discipline students, helps them learn what responsibility is and develop leadership skills. When playing in a team, you need to be able to communicate and deliver critical information to teammates. Esports participants need to learn online etiquette too, as there is no tolerance for any toxic or malicious behaviour.
“Additionally, analysis of a team’s performance is a key learning skill the students develop when being part of the esports club. These developing analytical skills enhance their critical thinking which is fundamental to an independent learner when faced with a challenge.”
META League Commissioner, Woody Wu, has welcomed the positive feedback from schools taking part in the competition. “It is great that Bass High School is seeing such benefits from competing in META and we know from speaking to teachers and students across the country, they are not alone,” he says. “Resilience, communication and discipline are critical to esport success, as well as being important life skills which students learn while competing with their teams.”
Bass High School’s esports team currently consists of 12 players, who engage in the esports program for two hours every week – one hour competing in the META tournament and one hour analysing their performance. The participating schools compete against schools from within their state, with finalists going on to compete in the national final.
Esports students at Bass High School are required to maintain their school attendance rate. For students who aren’t passionate about traditional sports, esports provides an opportunity to learn many of the same sorts of skills.
“There are a lot of students out there that don’t typically like to play traditional sports. Our school is very big on rugby but there are students interested in team games but not the physical side of it. For those who may have been disengaged, it attracts them to come to school more often. Some of our junior students who had low attendance rates are now participating in esports. Through esports, we are creating something that is very inclusive,” explains Ms Ge.
“Esports students have been telling us that other students want to be part of their gaming sessions. A lot of their rugby friends are asking what it’s about and how they can get involved. That makes these students feel good about their involvement because they are proud of what they’re doing.”
Ms Ge says esports has also opened the doors to various potential career pathways. “Some of the Year 12 esports students are hoping to go on to study game development after high school. The team has also created promotional videos for the program, and there are a few students interested in exploring the marketing side. Other students are quite creative and hope to get into visual design.”
As the esports program continues to gain traction at Bass High School, more and more students are putting their hands up to be involved and Ms Ge says she is planning to double the program’s intake for 2020.
Mr Wu adds, “We know our league makes a real difference in engaging high school students who aren’t interested in traditional extracurricular activities, like sport or the arts. We hope that hearing stories like that of Bass High inspires other teachers to reach out for information on how their students can get involved in 2020.”
The META High School Esports League was also recently named Winner of Best Retail, Hospitality, Tourism & Entertainment Innovation Program in the 2019 Australian Financial Review BOSS Most Innovative Companies list.
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