A Year in the Life of Teaching Esports BTEC: Time to Stop Talking!
This is the fourth in a series of blog posts by lecturer, consultant, and teacher of esports, Nik Turner.
After having spent around three weeks trying to switch the mindset of the students from ‘gaming to esports’ it was time to start delivering ‘Unit 1: Introduction to Esports’ from the Pearson’s specification.
"Right, we’ve read about esports, we’ve researched esports, now its time to stop talking and watch esports!"
It became apparent that while all of the students were very familiar with gaming and were regular viewers of streamers and influencers playing their favourite games, only about 50% had actually watched an esports event. This is a necessity for successful achievement on the course and I reinforced the fact that consuming esports, even if it’s not the games they played was critical to their success. It’s important that learner’s step outside their comfort zone and start watching a range of esports in order to understand the space they aspire to work in.
This can’t always be achieved as you can’t control what media they consume outside of the classroom – so time to bring esports into the classroom! When the BBC played their esports documentary series 'Fight for First' which features British underdogs Excel Esports as they battled to be taken seriously in the global scene, it’s fair to say the programme was met with mixed reactions. Many ‘esports purists’ weren’t happy with the way the industry was perceived citing a range of ‘issues’ that could be misinterpreted or created a negative perception of esports, while others, who weren’t familiar with esports were intrigued and excited by the nature and scale of something they’d never seen before.
Whatever your own thoughts might be, this series offers excellent teaching opportunities for educators at many levels. I would like to add at this point if you’re thinking of using it that there is some ‘choice’ language within the episodes so please consider your cohort and its appropriateness and you may want to watch the episodes in advance to ensure you’re comfortable with the vernacular.
Right from the start of episode 1 the documentary highlights so many important issues that surround esports and the industry that for me, it’s too good to ignore. There are 5 episodes in total and I started each session by playing an episode, asking the students to take notes and then spent time discussing those key points afterwards. I won’t bore you with all of the details as there are too many but just to give you an idea here are a few important discussion points raised by the series and if you look at the BTEC specifications it ticks a lot of boxes in a very practical, easy to understand and visible way for the learners.
The embryonic nature of the industry and how it’s developing as we speak
Big money investment, the creation of the new ‘superstar’ with fanatic fans
Structure of tournaments, team preparation, strategy, skills and performance analysis
Links between esports and traditional sports
Health, nutrition and wellbeing including mental health
Team dynamics, communication, teamwork, relationships
Inclusivity and Toxicity, demographics and gender imbalance
Pathways to becoming pro athletes and the pitfalls
The beauty and excitement of esports!
Watching is one thing, but the most important part of this process is the discussion of points raised after watching it. It is a really good way to engage your learners with esports and one that proved very successful. Further down the line you will also appreciate that the students absorb information within it that serves them well across other units which has been noted by my colleagues as well as myself. For example, I am currently delivering Unit 2 and when discussing strategy across genres I asked my students to draw a MOBA map. The majority (90%+) don’t play multiplayer online battle arena games preferring battle royale and first-person shooters but around 70% managed to successfully produce a drawing that reflected a standard MOBA map. I asked them how they knew what to draw and it transpired they remembered it from watching Excel Esports playing League of Legends in the documentary and at no point in the series do you actually see the map!
As you progress through delivering Unit 1 you will find yourself referring back to 'Fight for First’ for practical examples and it acts as a fantastic starting point for students to connect the dots and gain a deeper knowledge and understanding.
When discussing learning aim A ‘Understanding the organisation of esports and traditional sports industries in the UK and globally’ there are an abundance of resources available from the British Esports Association which will really help make your life as a teacher much easier and they shouldn’t be ignored, the BEA are also continually adding and updating their resources so it’s important to keep checking their site.
You may also want to talk to colleagues in your sports department as they will have resources that can be adapted when talking about traditional sports and the structure of how it all works. For learning aim B ‘Examine genres of esports games titles played by professional and grassroots esports teams and tournaments’ the most important thing to remember, and accept, is that the students may well know a lot more than you about the games! This is completely fine and as a teacher it’s important this is recognised. Listen to your students, learn from your students, I never pretend to know everything about every game, you can’t, so why not use the knowledge of your students to enhance your own development, let’s be honest, we’re all new to teaching the BTEC!
The industry is changing so quickly so that it’s also imperative that you stay on top of developments. When discussing the argument of esports is a sport or game, the concept of esports being accepted as a sport in the Olympics was mentioned and the significance of it to the industry. Just two days ago (as I write this) it was announced that esports will feature as a pilot sport in the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham later this year. This is a significant step in the development of esports - Olympics next? Let’s hope so!
If you would like to use the resources, I have discussed over the last few articles in this blog series they are now available to buy from Tes.
I’ll be at the BETT show on Wednesday 23rd March speaking about the delivery of the BTEC alongside my QMC colleague James Fraser-Murison and Laura Hall who’s in charge of the BTEC at Pearson so if you’re heading that way, pop over and say hello and we can talk all things esports!