How eSports Help Students Cultivate Soft Skills

Liz Alton

eSports is on a trajectory to become the largest sport in the world. According to Activate Technology and Media Outlook 2020, the industry is expected hit $7 billion by 2023. However, for many eSports players, there are unexpected benefits in participating. Educators, parents, and eSports athletes themselves note that participating in eSports helps students build critical soft skills, from stronger communication to collaboration and teamwork skills. Here’s a closer look at some of the latest insights from the field and how an eSports program could help your school prepare your students for tomorrow’s most challenging academic and career opportunities. 

On the Importance of Soft Skills

According to a recent piece in the Harvard Business Review, one of the most critical areas for skills development is soft skills. As many as 50% of jobs are likely to be automated by 2024. Today’s students can help prepare for the future of work by not only focusing on their technical and hard skills, but also on developing their soft skills. 

As the authors note, “In one survey, 93% of employers reported that ‘a candidate’s demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is more important than his or her undergraduate major.’  In addition, employers seek candidates who have other sorts of ‘soft skills,’ such as being able to learn adaptively, to make good decisions and to work well with others. These sought-after abilities, of course, fit perfectly with the sorts of things that people can do well, but are and will continue to be difficult to automate.”  

In other words, even the most sophisticated technology struggles to replicate factors such as emotional intelligence, the ability to understand and adapt decision-making changes to context, and creativity and collaboration. Students can develop important competitive advantages for their future academic and professional performance by focusing on the soft skills that eSports participation provides. The latest research and interviews with industry professionals suggests that eSports is a perfect training ground to let students test and develop these skills.

eSports Cultivates Teamwork

There are numerous studies on the benefits of teamwork, which have led traditional recommendations in the classroom that students participate in team sports. But for students with different interests or different physical capabilities, being signing up for the football team or joining Little League isn’t always a possibility. However, eSports relies primarily on technology and is a very inclusive option for a wider range of students. eSports helps develop teamwork skills that include communication, collaboration, and learning how to work effectively with others.

One study in The Sports Journal notes that researchers, “identified team dynamics and communication as potential barriers for esports players in achieving optimal performance. Contrary to stereotypical perception of gamers, esports players need to communicate with teammates effectively and operate as a team member. Furthermore, collective intelligence has been identified as a predictor for the performance of esports teams (Engel et al., 2017). It would seem that group dynamics plays a critical role in team performance for esports in a similar way it does for traditional sports.” Fostering these skills can help students in future academic endeavors, career, and transitioning to leadership roles.

Developing Strong Team-based Problem-Solving Skills

Another advantage that esports offers is the ability to help students develop problem-solving skills under pressure and working collaboratively with others. Dr. Mimi Ito, Professor of Cultural Anthropology at UC Irvine, has conducted research on how students engage with digital technology and notes that it takes significant hard work to excel at eSports. 

In an interview with the North American Scholastic Esports Federation, Ito notes “eSports provides a way for young people to hang out with their friends in a really active and positive way… Students are engaged in 21st century skills and problem-solving, and they’re understanding how to connect their own problem-solving with a whole community of players.”

Success at eSports Fosters Self-confidence

Self-confidence is a soft skill that enables students to take on challenges and broaden their horizons. As ET notes, “Achieving and excelling at competitive gaming in a learning environment can do wonders for students who love gaming but may not show any particular interest in traditional curriculum sports and activities. By offering eSports as an alternative, students are given the choice of taking up something they truly enjoy which helps improve self-confidence in their own abilities.” Students that find success in eSports may be more willing to take risks, try new things, and believe in their ability to succeed at challenging endeavors.

Competition, Competitiveness, and Much More

It’s estimated that there are 125 varsity college teams participating in competitive eSports leagues today, and the number is increasing annually. By taking part in competitive activities, students are building a number of soft skills. Often, the popular eSports games rely on teams of players working together to win, rather than the prowess of individual players. Learning how to compete effectively supports an array of skills, from the importance of time management and developing a strong ethic to managing losses in a healthy way and rejoicing in their own success.

If you need to build a strong case for hosting an esports team at your school, the effectiveness of cultivating soft skills can help. eSports have opened a new avenue of exploration and performance for students. From creating an inclusive environment for students with a wide ranges skills and abilities to helping cultivate stronger teamwork and collaboration, eSports fosters the vital soft skills that will help students be competitive in the future job market.

Liz Alton is a B2B technology and digital marketing writer and content strategist. She has worked with a variety of brands including Google, Twitter, Adobe, Oracle, and HP, and written for publications including Forbes. She is a regular contributor to Connected, Connection’s official blog.