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From Esports to STEM

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    Lethrese Rosete, a 20-year-old DePaul sophomore majoring in UX design, plays an online game at the university’s Esports Gaming Center. (AP/Claire Savage)
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    Kevin Fair leads a gaming workshop for kids. (Handout)
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    Anthony Moore, left, and Tayquan Johnson, play a video game at a tournament in Annapolis, Maryland. The tournament used games and educational programming to help parents and educators introduce students to STEM fields. (AP)
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    Shemar Worthy, a 21-year-old DePaul University senior majoring in information systems, plays an online game. He says gaming was a gateway to his interest in a tech career. (AP/Claire Savage)
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WORLDteen | Ages 11-14 | $35.88 per year

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High school sports can sometimes pave the way to college. But what about esports?

“Esports” is another name for competitive multiplayer video gaming. You don’t see colorful team jerseys in esports. Instead, you see the flashing lights of computer screens. You don’t hear cheering crowds. You hear clacking keyboards.

To outsiders, it might not look like much. But for some kids, esports could lead to careers in STEM: science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

As a kid, Kevin Fair loved playing Nintendo. Sometimes his game console would break. When that happened, he pulled out the toolbox. He took the console apart, fixed the problem, and put it back together.

He realized Nintendo was more than a toy. By playing video games and fixing his buggy console, he learned real-life skills. He figured out how to fix computers. He learned to code.

In 2009, Fair started a business called I Play Games! His mission: to show kids—especially kids of color—that gaming can be more than, well, gaming.

Fair isn’t the only one with this mission. Chicago’s DePaul University began offering an esports scholarship. Ten freshman students received the scholarship this school year. The university aims to teach them practical skills for the video game industry.

Esports skills don’t lead only to the video game industry. They can lead to careers in IT, coding, software engineering, and more. As Fair points out, esports teach kids to type fast and analyze data on the fly. In today’s digital workplace, those are valuable abilities.

The University of California Irvine conducted a study on esports clubs in schools. It found that esports boosted interest in math and science—and benefited low-income schools the most.

But esports have their problems too. Some point to privacy concerns for kids who game online. Others say that online games use deceptive tactics to trick kids into making purchases.

Fair understands these dangers. He thinks parents should pay close attention to their children’s gaming habits. “There’s a lot of trash out there,” he says.

For kids to see the connection between video games and career skills, someone needs to show them. “I can have a lot of kids that love playing,” says Fair. “But that doesn’t mean that they’re going to desire to become engineers.”

God created a world full of opportunities to explore, play, and learn. Fair learned new skills by engaging his favorite hobby with curiosity. Now he wants to help others do the same.

How can you enjoy your favorite pastimes in a way that gives God glory?

Why? God sometimes provides unlikely ways to learn and grow. And He provides teachers and mentors to show the way.