Dr. Delaney Ruston – Many people have a good relationship with video gaming — playing for an amount of time they are comfortable with. Granted, that amount of time might be very different from what we would want for ourselves or, perhaps, our kids. Meanwhile, there are young people who find they are most comfortable choosing not to play video games.
Today I’m sharing two polar opposite stories of people’s choices around video gaming — extremes can be great conversation starters. One is from a kid who decided, on his own, to stop all video gaming essentially, and the other is about teens attending a high school that is 100% focused on video gaming and the video gaming industry.
A teen who opted out of video gaming
While hiking a few weeks ago, I met a recent college grad, and we ended up hiking together for much of the trail (well, actually, it was on snow, so “trail” is a bit of a stretch). Jared (not his real name) went to high school outside of Seattle, just finished college at UW in computer science, and had recently started a cloud computing job at Amazon.
While hiking, I asked Jared if he liked playing video games and, if so, which ones. (I have to confess, hearing that he was a computer science major, I was expecting that he liked video gaming.) He casually answered, “Nah, I don’t play any video games.”
He went on to tell me that when he was in middle school, he was playing a lot of online flash games like Bloons Tower Defense and Bubble Tanks 3. He owned a Wii and would also play games such as Lego Star Wars and Mario Kart. When he was 13, he started to notice that after he played, he felt “sort of lousy” and had this feeling like he “had nothing to show for all the hours of gaming.”
He remembers clearly the day he decided to quit playing (and by the way, he was not a heavy-duty player). He said to his parents, “If I quit playing video games will you buy me a saxophone?” His parents agreed to the deal. He thinks they said “Yes” because they did not believe he was serious.
Sure enough, he stopped playing video games. He spent more time getting better on the saxophone, using at first the one borrowed from the school and eventually the one his parents bought him when the year was up.
I asked about the video gaming habits of his fellow computer science majors during his recent college days. He said plenty of friends who really liked playing video games, but many of them chose not to play that much because they wanted breaks from screens because they had to be on them so much for school work.
Teens who pursue a life focused on video gaming
Now, switching gears, and countries, to talk about another extreme.
The GenG Elite Esports Academy, started by an American e-sport company, is a school that opened in Seoul, South Korea, in 2019 and is all about video gaming. The building looks like a regular high school, but it’s not. It is a school for high school-age students who want to be professional gamers, or if they can’t make the cut, the school helps them apply for college scholarships to help get onto collegiate e-sports teams.
Here’s an interesting fact: In South Korea, students can’t receive college scholarships for e-sports skills, but in America, you can. So, at GenG Academy, the students are vying for US school scholarships.
The New York Times reported that by age 26, the careers of most e-sports athletes in South Korea come to an end because younger players take the lead. Wow, only 26, after all those thousands of hours of practicing.
The New York Times also reported that “E-sports is now the fifth-most popular future job among South Korean students, after athletes, doctors, teachers, and digital content creators, according to a survey by the Education Ministry last year.” In the US, according to IBIS World, in 2022, there are currently almost 300,000 video game employees.
Ideas to get the conversation started:
- Have you ever met a young person, or adult, who decided to give up video gaming?
- Who do you know who doesn’t like video gaming?
- Who loves it?
- Do you predict that high schools for e-sports will grow worldwide?
- What are your thoughts about such schools?
- By the way, two of the Screenagers Podcast episodes discuss e-sports.