Esports is soaring in popularity in K–12 schools and in higher education as student gamers find a competitive and team-based outlet for their video gaming habits—playing not in isolation but among a community of fellow students.

Esports students aren’t traditional athletes, but they still practice after school, play different positions, wear jerseys during competitions, and compete for trophies and college scholarships. Coaches even suspend players whose GPAs dip below the required minimums.

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Because esports are so popular, more than 1,200 schools now participate in the High School Esports League, a six-fold increase from 2018. Researchers say esports, or competitive video gaming, has become a US $1 billion global industry. Yet, even as the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting esports tournaments by forcing people to cancel or postpone events, and shift to virtual classes for the foreseeable future, online gaming helps kids stay connected in their new self-isolated way of life.

About the Author:

Brandon Shopp is vice president of product at SolarWinds.