[dropcap]B[/dropcap]eginning next August, Norway’s Garnes High School will be offering students gaming classes in place of gym class, including only 90 minutes of exercise optimized for their favourite game. This is not the first time a school has made this decision, as other schools in Norway and in Sweden also offer eSports classes. However, this decision shows an unsettling shift away from the obvious purpose of gym class: exercise.
One thing can not be denied — eSports are a large, growing industry expected to be worth about $2 billion dollars by 2018. If schools mean to prepare our young people for the future, then it makes sense that we teach them about new, emerging industries. However, eSports are simply not an appropriate substitute for traditional physical activity.
Some eSports players take home six figures in earnings, or competition earnings and sponsorship. UBC’s esports team won a $180,000 scholarship last May in a video game competition. Many universities and colleges across North America now offer scholarships for eSports. Students should absolutely learn about these opportunities while in high school. Who doesn’t want to get paid to play video games?
Garnes High School says that these classes will train “[young] eSports pros bodies as well as their minds.” They will learn teamwork, sharpen reflexes, as well as build focus and endurance for long tournaments.
Truly, a training session for video games would likely aid in all those categories. However, the issue here is that you cannot substitute video games for physical exercise.
The benefits of gym class simply cannot be taken away from students. Just 30 to 45 minutes of moderate exercise per day has been shown to enhance memory, concentration, mood, cardiovascular endurance, and self-confidence. These are things that teenagers probably will not get out of an eSports class.
I’m not intending to bash video games. Personally, I have logged an embarrassing amount of time playing Call of Duty, Age of Empires, and numerous Fallout games. I enjoy them as much as the next person. However, it doesn’t seem right to allow students to opt out of gym class in order to play video games.
The entire purpose of physical education is to teach students the benefits of maintaining a healthy body, and, sadly, sitting does not contribute to health maintenance.
Perhaps, it would be better to offer eSports training as an extracurricular opportunity, so as not to diminish the importance of physical exercise. Students deserve the chance to pursue their interests, especially when it has the potential to earn them scholarships.
The fact of the matter is that the benefits gained from the two different types of classes are not identical, or even similar. A healthy body as well as a healthy mind is vital to ensure that students live a good life during and after high school.