From the early days of the arcade, there has been competitive play in video games. Now players compete worldwide and online, and gamers who used to compete for the bragging rights alone can now compete at officiated live and web-streamed events for large cash prizes. The cash prizes exceed $10 million per year for some games.

Esports can involve any video game that has a player vs. player aspect and organized tournaments. The current biggest title in terms of both number of players and amount of cash prizes is League of Legends. With over 65 million players worldwide every month, the free-to-play League of Legends is the current king of the PC-gaming world.  League of Legends joins games like Star Craft II, DotA 2, and Counter-Strike at the top of the esports pantheon.

The esport designation may not make sense to everyone, but it does highlight the competitive nature of these games and pushes for a sense of professionalism and fair play. For kids who happen to be video game geeks, the term “esports” lends legitimacy to what they love to do. The competition and challenges are very real. The teamwork and coordination requires the same kind of focus on other players as traditional sports. If your kid prefers to pursue these learning experiences through gaming, what should you do?

How To Respond to Dreams of Going Pro

When I taught a few years ago, professional gaming was a new but increasingly common career fantasy for kids. Some parents dismissed it as silliness, while others became truly concerned or upset. While the odds of becoming a paid professional video gamer are incredibly slim, the odds of becoming a professional sports player aren’t much better. However, children’s dreams of entering pro sports are often treated more seriously as a viable career path than pro gaming.

The chance to win $30,000 by doing something that most people do for fun is pretty rare. (Source: vr-zone)

The chance to win $30,000 by doing something that most people do for fun is pretty rare. (Source: vr-zone)

A paying position in either traditional sports or esports is a long shot, but the point of encouraginga child’s sports aspirations should never be an expectation of professional involvement. Both traditional sports and video games teach children lessons about teamwork, problem solving, and healthy competition. Once the world of esports becomes more familiar and understandable, the statement “I want to be a pro gamer” should become another chance to cheer on a kid’s dreams rather than a cause for concern.

How To Think About Esports Vs. Regular Sports

Electronic sports? The term may seem odd considering how video games have the reputation of being sedentary pursuits. Every so often yet another report suggests video games are keeping kids indoors, keeping kids from traditional sports, and even fueling childhood obesity and related health issues. There is nothing, however, that prevents kids from enjoying both video games and traditional physical activities. While most video games won’t provide the same physical-fitness benefits, the mental and social benefits of electronic sports can be the same as traditional sports—especially when kids team up with their real-life friends and family. For kids who don’t like traditional team sports, video games can be a great opportunity to experience the benefits of healthy competition.

How To Help Your Kid Get the Most Out of Esports

Children are more likely to get the most out of any game with the help of parents and other adults. While organized sports almost always have a coach and parents involved, parents are often noticeably absent when it comes to video gaming. Admittedly there is a learning curve. Traditional sports have been unchanged for the past several decades, and usually parents are the ones teaching the kids. When it comes to video games, current titles are just as new to the parent as they are to the child. Often it will be the kids teaching the adults how to play the games they love.

It may take some time to learn about these new games. You may never quite get the hang of some titles, but getting involved—even as a spectator—will let you be a part of something important in your kid’s world.

After all, you may not know every rule in soccer or be an expert quarterback yourself, but you’d still play catch with your kids and attend their games, wouldn’t you?

Simone de Rochefort

Simone de Rochefort

Simone de Rochefort is a game journalist, writer, podcast host, and video producer who does a prolific amount of Stuff. You can find her on Twitter @doomquasar, and hear her weekly on tech podcast Rocket, as well as Pixelkin's Gaming With the Moms podcast. With Pixelkin she produces video content and devotes herself to Skylanders with terrifying abandon.