Late last year, Intel signed a yearlong partnership with the High School Esports League (HSEL) to help schools across the U.S. establish esports programs and support high school competitive leagues. High school esports, a form of multiplayer competition using video games like Overwatch, Rocket League and Super Smash Bros, is now recognized as a competitive school sport – just like soccer and basketball.
Participating in esports teams helps students develop key skills, introduces them to new career opportunities and allows them to follow their passion for video games, says Josiah Nuzum, gaming community and esports marketing manager at Intel. These benefits give students the opportunity to be exposed to STEM-related careers, as well as non-technical careers based on event production and management, sales and marketing, content creation, and more. It also may position students for scholarships and college recruitment, as well as create a more diverse and inclusive gaming community.
More colleges, universities and high schools are adopting and developing their esports labs and teams. The North America Scholastic Esports Federation registered 1,000 schools in February 2021 and the High School Esports League registered more than 2,100 partner schools and over 60,000 students.
The esports market is forecast to have more than 474 million viewers and a global revenue that will exceed $1.08 billion by the end of 2021, according to Newzoo’s March 2021 Global Esports and Live Streaming Market Report.
“Being a professional player is not the only way you can succeed in this area – esports can branch in so many different directions,” says Nuzum, pointing out that there is opportunity beyond being a player, especially behind the scenes.
HSEL and Intel’s partnership allows students to understand and see all the opportunities that connect esports with education. By funding these programs, partnership leaders hope to encourage students to compete in tournaments, improve their skills and become inspired about their careers as they transition to college. According to HSEL, students who join esports programs have school attendance increases of more than 10% and have higher GPAs.
The Intel Winners Circle Tournament was created in partnership with HSEL with the purpose of bringing together the top high school teams across to compete on qualified games such as Valorant, Overwatch and Super Smash Bros. Schools that qualify for the tournament receive $1,000 for their esports programs. Winning teams receive $50,000 in prizes and scholarships.
Helping build esports teams
There is a cost barrier to entering PC gaming (See “Gaming Survey Provides Data on Diversity and Inclusion among Players” on the We Are Intel Blog). To support this initiative, Intel recently donated 150 Intel® Core™ i9-10850k processors and 150 Intel® 760p Series (1TB) SSDs for PC builds in high schools across the country.
Helping students bridge the technology gap is just one step in making esports more accessible and legitimate at the high-school level.
To learn more of what happens behind the scenes in esports, Intel started a video series. “Intel in Process” offers insights into the lives of gamers and industry professionals. In the most recent episode, HSEL helped students compete in esports leagues. The video features Paloma Valley High School’s journey, as students build their own competitive PC systems, gain access to scholarships, livestream games and find a supportive community among parents and teachers.
“There was so much excitement for students to be able to play and compete in games they weren’t able to play before. It just opens a whole new world of opportunities for them. It was one of the most rewarding things I’ve had the opportunity to do at Intel,” Nuzum says.
Intel is investing in this growing segment of esports. As more schools participate in esports leagues and the need for improved programs increases, HSEL in agreement with D&H Distributing offer an ASUS and Intel package that will be installed and sold through D&H and its partners.
Other ways Intel is boosting esports
Intel has been an esports leader for more than 20 years, and its commitment to the gaming community is what empowers partnerships in collegiate esports, marketing, education initiatives and the creation of technologies that amplify gameplay.
Intel Inspires provides opportunities to gamers and young creators. This program helps participants gain exposure to colleges and universities through an esports recruiting event, which may lead to scholarships and relationships with industry professionals. For young creators, more than $25,000 in prizes are awarded to participants who can demonstrate their skills in content creation, design and shout casting.
As the esports business keeps growing, Intel will continue to improve esports awareness and PC accessibility to support programs and inspire students to connect careers in STEM and esports.