Apr 27 2022

Trends in K–12 Esports Arenas

From school colors to shoutcasters, discover the popular elements in district esports spaces. Plus, experts share advice on attainable ways to start your program.

School esports arenas are popping up across the country as competitive gaming teams grow in K–12 districts. Schools, administrators and communities have begun to see the value esports provides to students and districts. As a result, district personnel who wish to start esports clubs are facing less pushback in making the case for these programs.

For schools that face problems with limited budgets, it can help to start with a smaller setup. Esports equipment is easy to scale up once the program has more financial support. Many K–12 districts repurpose spaces such as classrooms and labs for their teams. Often, esports players use computers that serve other programs during the day, such as career and technical education.

IT teams can also upgrade existing computers with gaming components for more cost-effective esports equipment. Adding a graphics card and more RAM to slightly older devices can help schools keep costs low while giving players the speed and precision they need in fast-paced, competitive games.

Click the banner to discover esports content that will help schools equip their teams.

Working with a vendor-agnostic partner like CDW gives districts the flexibility to build the esports bundle that best meets their needs. Pre-existing bundles may come with limited options, which may be even more limited with supply chain delays. The experts with CDW can find the equipment, components and peripherals for schools to build a functional, trendy esports arena.

School Pride Meets Tech to Create an Esports Atmosphere

One of the biggest trends in K–12 esports arenas is the inclusion of school logos and colors. A relatively simple addition to their furniture and space, adding logos, mascots or even the team name to furnishings can transform these spaces from classrooms to arenas. Companies like Spectrum Furniture, which crafted general education furniture before expanding into esports, can add these elements, which give students a sense of pride and admins an additional level of investment.

Spectrum gaming chairs go the extra mile, with removable logos, team names or gamer tags. In some instances, varsity team players who have their gamer tag or logo zipped into the chair will graduate with a meaningful memento for their trophy case.

In one New Jersey K–12 district, esports is an investment in students’ futures.

Click here to watch how one district is supporting students with a new esports arena.

Arena Layouts Meet the Needs of the Players

Another common theme among K–12 arenas, which carries over to college and professional setups, is the arrangement of the players’ seats.

Typically, club players will be arranged in a pod, with five or six desks facing one another so players can talk to each other while immersed in the game, which allows them to learn, bond and strategize.

Varsity players, meanwhile, often play side by side. K­–12 arenas often arrange a line desks and computers for their varsity team to give them more of a stage presence. This shouldn’t take up much of the room and allows plenty of space for pods and other arena needs.

K–12 Esports Arenas Build Space for Play-by-Play

Another large presence in today’s esports arenas is shoutcasters, the game announcers who watch the players and communicate the play-by-play to audiences who attend either in person or by tuning in virtually through Twitch and Discord.

Shoutcasters often need their own unique tech setups for broadcasts. They require more robust computers than the gamers because, while those computers need to run the game, the shoutcasters’ computers are running the game and a handful of other programs simultaneously. As shoutcasters watch the game on their computers in spectator mode — toggling between views of individual players and an overall view of the action — they are control the livestream.

LEARN MORE: Support the team behind the team with this essential ed tech.

Besides the computer, a shoutcaster might have a webcam, an external microphone, a light, a capture card for saving game footage and a stream deck. The stream deck is comparable to a speed dial: Casters set hot keys on the device to effortlessly control the streams. For example, they might program a hot key to display — with the press of a single button — graphics and sound effects when a player scores. In this way, acting quickly and efficiently, the shoutcaster increases the production value of the team’s stream.

Coaching Needs Perpetuate the Esports Pipeline

In the early days of the industry, it was often difficult to find a coach for K–12 esports teams, but there are now multiple options for bringing in coaches.

In some cases, student players work with teachers and adults to guide the team. These student leaders help teammates with in-game skills and strategies, while the adult coach helps with the team logistics, such as signing the team up for tournaments. This works for K–12 players because the students know the most about the games, they have the most time to play them and therefore the most experience.

WATCH NOW: Create a successful and inclusive esports program with these tips.

Some K–12 teams hire recent college graduates to lead their programs. After playing on a college esports team, these grads may be looking for a way to stay in the industry. Working with K–12 athletes keeps them involved with esports and perpetuates the pipeline of esports players.

 

This article is part of the “ConnectIT: Bridging the Gap Between Education and Technology” series. Please join the discussion on Twitter by using the #ConnectIT hashtag.

[title]Connect IT: Bridging the Gap Between Education and Technology

Volha Shakhava/Getty Images

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