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  • Writer's pictureTechnology in Education

Esports Is The Here And Now

With a worldwide market bigger than the movie and music industry combined, digital games are a global phenomenon. Why then, if they are such a huge part of the world that we live in, aren’t primary schools embracing video games?

ICT EDU Magazine spoke with school teacher Dan Martinez, who is the spokesperson for The FUSE Cup (Federation of United Schools Esports). The FUSE Cup is a new Australian initiative aimed at engaging primary school students in competitive video gameplay, more commonly known as esports, as a way of developing positive gaming habits and fostering better digital wellbeing for students.

ICT EDU Magazine: What is the current state of inter school esports competitions in Australia?

Dan Martinez: In Australia there’s not much at a primary school level for esports, there just isn’t. There’s a lot at the higher levels for years 9,10,11 and 12 and some that have been around for a while. I can see a gap for junior school kids who already love gaming.

IEM: What is The FUSE Cup?

DM: It’s a nationwide network of schools connected in providing young students with an opportunity to participate in a safe, supportive and structured national esports competition while developing positive gaming behaviours and digital wellbeing. We have four key values: integrity, strength, inclusion and teamwork. And we’re also tying in expectations around how you behave at school actually matters and that representing your school is not a right but an opportunity.

IEM: What devices & games will students be playing?

DM: It will be console based games which are really simple for schools to manage as well as an affordable price point. We’ll be using Nintendo Switch where schools can purchase a kit, join a local division and get involved in a national competition. This year we have three competitions based around different games: Mario Kart, FIFA20 & Rocket League. FIFA20 and Rocket League are titles that are actually used in professional esports circuits and Mario Kart is just because it’s a classic and everyone loves it! We want to build a positive environment around games that are age appropriate and non violent because we’re looking at bringing kids in who would like to play, as well as bringing their parents on board to understand what this esports is all about.

Image courtesy of Saint Stephen’s College, Gold Coast QLD

IEM: Logistically, how will it work for schools who want to join The FUSE Cup in 2020?

DM: Schools will compete within a local division, where one school is the host for the competition day. There will be one competition day in each of Terms 1, 2 and 3. Schools will be given time to prepare their students before the event and come and represent just like you would for an athletics, or any other sporting, competition. Individual schools choose how they want to train, some do after school, some do lunchtime. They can invite many students to come along and whittle it down to find the best 3 or 4, depending on the title, to represent at the inter school competition. If there is more than one division within a state, then regional winners progress through to a state final. The best from each state then progress to a national championship held in Melbourne in August 2020.

*flights and accommodation are paid for by The FUSE Cup to enable interstate teams to attend national finals.

IEM: Will there be a boys and girls division?

DM: Absolutely not, all together. If we’re talking about inclusion, we want everyone working together in collaboration but also competing against one another.

Image courtesy of Hillcrest Christian College, Gold Coast QLD

IEM: There can be a very “toxic culture” (as described by my 13yo nephew and avid gamer) in the gaming community. How does The FUSE Cup plan to combat this?

DM: Our competitions are all face to face, there’s no online component. So what we find through that face to face interaction is that students have to be inclusive, they have to collaborate in real time, shake hands and wish each other luck- just as it is in any other sporting environment. We also provide schools, players and parents with very clear behavioural guidelines that need to be discussed, agreed to and signed by players. That’s where our partnership with the Chiefs (an Australian professional esports team) comes in. We can replicate what the standards are at a professional level so that kids grow up knowing you can’t be disrespectful or say racist, negative or abusive things. We even have a behaviour management system that includes yellow and red cards just like any other sport.

IEM: The World Health Organisation recently added “gaming disorder” as a recognised illness. With increased community concerns, how will The FUSE Cup encourage balance and allay fears of parents?

DM: We spend a lot of time talking about ‘digital detox’, ‘digital wellbeing’ and we have structured breaks so that we’re teaching the students it’s not healthy to play for seven hours straight! We’re looking at this as an opportunity to model positive gaming behaviours. We’re providing a safe, structured and supervised environment where students can learn the values of integrity, strength, inclusion and teamwork along with gaming. If we’re not providing our students with a structured, organised gaming environment early on, the risk is that they’ll go down that (addiction) path. We’ll also be inviting parents into the process, all our resources are geared towards parents as well as students. We’ll be supporting schools with practical tips, tricks and guidelines around ways that schools can implement our esports competition in their school.

IEM: What do you see as the major benefits to students & schools participating in The FUSE Cup?

DM: The motivation and engagement we find in students who are involved in esports versus those that aren’t is phenomenal. The students who are really into esports are often otherwise overlooked and may have never represented their school in anything. All of a sudden here’s an opportunity for those students to participate and feel valued as members of their school community. Another benefit is the confidence students get from knowing ‘hey my school actually cares about things that are of interest to me’ and this in turn increases school connectedness.

IEM: As schools, we’re often driven by curriculum, curriculum, curriculum! Where does esports fit in?

DM: The General Capabilities are often left for students to get by osmosis, whereas that’s not how it works. We’ve actually aligned esports very heavily to the General Capabilities and provide ideas to schools to say these are the things that can be taught and targeted as part of an esports environment.

Image courtesy of Coomera Rivers State School, Gold Coast QLD

IEM: Where do you see The FUSE Cup in 5 years?

DM: We have plans to bring on schools in Asia to create an Australiasian super league!


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