What to do if your kid wants to become a gamer or e-athlete

What to do if your kid wants to become a gamer or e-athlete

Yura Lazebnikov, an investor, the Managing Partner of TECHIIA technology holding and WePlay Esports media holding told about the help and harm of computer games, the e-athletes’ lifestyle and how not to get yourself expelled from the university, even if there’s such a risk.

"My kid is 8 years old and he wants to become an e-athlete. What to do? Please, help!"

This seems to be a typical call for help in our country, where anything new is always taken with caution and seems suspicious. But no — copied the question from Quora, where people from all over the world ask questions and give answers. Parents in all countries, including the United States, start worrying when their child suddenly decides to become some kind of another-level gamer.

If you are one of those parents whose child is playing games around the clock and strives to become one of the top e-athletes, this article is right for you. If you are a kid who wants to live the life of a 16-year-old millionaire, this article is right for you.

Being in the heart of the esports industry as a child a long time ago and a father now, I will try to show you this picture from different perspectives. I shall tell about my personal experience, and we also will discuss:

  • research on uncontrolled aggression and the benefits of video games;
  • a lifestyle of a person who dedicates himself/herself to professional (e)sports;
  • reasons not to leave school or university for esports;
  • ways to build a dialogue and resolve the generation gap.

On These "Useless" Games

I was introduced to video games at the age of six when my parents bought a computer. Like many other parents, they hoped that I would learn to program. But I played games much harder than I studied. After more than 30 years, it does not seem to be such a bad idea — including the passion for games and esports that I and my partner have, our holding company was born.

However, back in the days, the games were different. In the 90's you had to try hard to run a game. You had to have the skills of a system administrator, and sometimes of a programmer. The process of setting, configuring, and updating was more like getting specialized secondary education.

Even now, it is still a good motivation for learning. For example, last year's study reports that video games help learn to read. The researchers surveyed 4,626 British children aged 11-16 and found that even lazy students improved their reading skills. 79% of respondents read game-related texts, including in-game communication, reviews and blogs, books, and fan fiction.

I was lucky because there was no need to hide, cheat, explain. My parents perceived my passion as something natural. Of course "don't sit at the computer for 4 hours in a row, do your homework" was a usual thing for me to hear, as for many of us. But it is useless to disallow 6-8-year-old kids to do something. At best, they will be offended. At worst, they will find a way to circumvent the ban.

In December 2020, Latvian sociologists found that 15% of young gamers conceal their gaming activities. That is, they learned to cheat and lie. 71% of these youngsters, refer to the bias of older family members about games, meaning parents consider games harmful.

Games, Fears, and Reality

Adults are afraid that the computer will do to their children what the TV did to them. It seems logical to adults that a child who kills virtual monsters or avatars in Counter-Strike might lose sensitivity to other people's pain and can be dangerous to others. Or vice versa, he/she might shut himself/herself off and fall into depression.

A team of scientists from University College London conducted a study on the impact of games, social networks, and Internet surfing on adolescents in general. 11,000 Brits born between 2000 and 2002 were invited to participate in this study. Kids at the age of 11 were questioned about their online activities. After 3 years, the same respondents were studied for depressive symptoms, mood swings, weak (or strong) concentration, or becoming joyless.

It was found that boys who played video games quite often showed 24% fewer depressive symptoms than those who played less than once a month. This figure is valid only for boys with low physical activity and is completely irrelevant for girls.

As for girls, the symptoms of depression were revealed 3 years later. It turned out that 13% of girls who actively used social networks from the age of 11 experienced social isolation.

In January 2018, a number of German scientific organizations published a study on aggression. Adolescents who were active gamers were divided into 3 groups. The first group played aggressive GTA V 30 minutes a day, the second one played The Sims 3, and the third was asked to do what they usually do.

Two months later, all the groups were checked with an MRI machine. Teenagers were given photos and animations with painful and painless subjects. It turned out that the brain reaction of those who played GTA is not very different from the reaction of others. That is, there is no connection between active involvement in games with an element of violence and loss of sensitivity to someone else's pain.

Last year, scientists at Massey University in New Zealand re-examined data from 28 studies from previous years, collected from more than 21,000 youngsters worldwide. They also concluded that video games do not lead to violence or aggression.

Games and isolation

One of the most common fears is that a child loses all communication skills when stuck in cyberspace. I would like to share an empirical experience on this matter.

My love for games didn’t vanish even when I was a student at KPI. I had a new game in one, and a bunch of typical calculations in another. And I spent a lot of nights doing one of them. And it was not calculations, as you may guess. Then "suddenly" I found out that six admissions were not passed and four exams out of four failed.

KPI is a place so advanced that sometimes it is possible to get a grade for the semester if you defeat the teacher in Heroes of Might and Magic III. But there were other teachers, very demanding, strict, and incorruptible.

Do you know how such conditions reveal the negotiating potential? No university will teach you to communicate with other people the way that a difficult life situation will. And best of all is that we learned the main thing — to solve problems. And we did it by using more people to get textbooks, conducting arrangements, shifting tasks between each other. It became essential for me in life and in business.

Of course, not everyone could handle such a situation. I've seen gamer students left for a second year or even expelled. But I'm sure that the passion for the game could be replaced by any other — and the result still would be the same.

Sociologists found that 15% of young gamers conceal their gaming activities. Photo: Gorodenkoff / Depositphotos

But there is also another point. Not all games are equally beneficial. For example, esports is based on competition. Therefore, communication is a crucial skill for any player. Confrontational players leave the teams in the blink of an eye. The same applies to self-contained and self-isolated gamers.

The interaction between the participants, respect for rivals, and the ability to communicate with the media are crucial for the team to reach the top leagues. That is where esports helps to boost, not hits the breaks.

How to help your child become an e-athlete

Let’s imagine that games and esports are no longer intimidating, and parents are ready to support their kid’s passion.

The first steps in any sport are quite similar: we cannot give an extensive answer to the "How to grow a Formula 1 champion?" question. We obviously will not bring the F1 car to the kindergarten so the child could drive around. But, for example, we can take him/her go-karting. And if in the first year or two the child didn’t hurt himself/herself while driving, you can think about the next step — to look for competence points.

The same is fair for esports. Its huge advantage is that the basic skills and talent can be tested on your own and the kid can start developing them without leaving home. But in this case parent’s support is of great need, because they are the ones to provide their kid with the furniture, the computer, and all the peripherals.

Next, you need to think about where the Centres of Expertise are. There are no esports schools where an 8-year-old child can learn how to become a 25-year-old millionaire champion. Teams and profile associations are the ones who help gamers.

Associations usually solve the problems of the industry. But teams are looking for talent for young teams. And I/m not talking about the top teams or associations only, you can always contact the minor ones. They do not have big victories or prizes, but they evolve by attracting new players. This can be a good step on the way to The International for a rookie.

The Flip Side

It happens that a kid who plays at home from time to time, checks some streams discovers a list of rich youngsters in esports, and says: "I do not want to work hard on some job. I will play Dota 2 and get tens of thousands or even millions of dollars."

And this is exactly when a down-to-earth view should come into play.

Hobbies and work are just like tourism and emigration. Let's take football for example. One thing is to play with friends once a month, have fun and enjoy a little picnic afterward. Another thing is to become a professional football player.

Professional sports, and esports as well, are demanding and limit athletes. Being an e-athlete is not about playing for a few hours until you get bored but about playing for 8-10 hours every day on schedule, about taking a few breaks to do some physical exercises, about recording and analyzing your mistakes, and reporting to the coach every morning on how you are going to correct them. It means not meeting friends, not going on a date, because you have another practice in an hour.

Esports is also a huge business that makes you grow up faster. You can’t act the maggot. Those who are not taking full responsibility and refuse to participate in the tournament with no explanation are severely fined.

Sometimes, after a couple of years of such a life, it turns out that you have no talent and you wasted your time. Sport is a job that is paid for. Sometimes it’s paid well, sometimes not. Athletes retire early, e-athletes retire even earlier. Few will be able to become a coach. Many will face the problem of "what's next".

Games are there to have a good time, to throw emotions into the virtual world, just to be distracted and have fun. I would sincerely like them to remain so for most people.

Esports is about more than just players

Among other things, it is worth reminding both children and parents that esports is not just about game characters.

Esports is a huge content production factory. Yes, players and teams are in the middle of it, but it’s just a small part. Teams need managers, coaches, psychologists, PR managers. There are games developers, equipment, merch. There are tournament venue owners.

There are also tournament operators and even media holdings like WePlay Esports with hundreds of specialists: producers, directors, screenwriters, cameramen, commentators, engineers, designers, journalists, the list goes on. We build arenas, hold tournaments, broadcast, create platforms, make media, forecasts.

Have games and eSports stopped scaring you? Be prepared to support your child's enthusiasm. Photo by belchonock / Depositphotos

And this is an argument in favor of education.

We, as well as our colleagues, need people who know how to create all kinds of content and who yearn to do it. This requires basic training in this direction. Now, esports direction is being launched at universities, and a new Computer Animation Director course, where you can study at live tournaments, starts in Kyiv this fall.

So, if you are thinking of dropping out of university to dedicate your life to esports, think twice. Having a profession, being able to write competently, and counting at least a little is good for everyone.

About the Dialogue

My kids never had an idea of leaving the school. They did not fail exams or had a risk of being expelled. My daughter has just graduated from kindergarten, and the eldest son has a clear understanding of “I should study first, then I can relax”, and not only by playing computer or console games.

And I also share my kids’ hobbies. For example, my son and I both love Fortnite — it is fun, exciting, and does not require hours to play. Even when I'm miles away from my family, we can call each other, chat in Discord, yell at each other in the heat of the game battle but enjoy it and go do your things afterward. And when we are together, the whole family can play Among Us.

There is no single recipe for dealing with games. As there are no identical children and parents. Some need more discipline and challenges. Some need support and cheer. I like to raise interest and then observe. I notice that if a child enjoys the lesson, he himself adheres to discipline and struggles with laziness.

The main thing is not to impose your desires and ideas about how it should be on the child. They still see how you actually live. Don't kill interest in the e-athlete’s life with its horrors. Don't force your kid to play by saying "once you're at your computer, you should make millions." But also don’t say that everything will be smooth and easy.

Parenting is also a job that can be loved or avoided. Help your child to know himself/herself, pay attention to obstacles, help to overcome them if your kid needs your help in this. Understanding the necessity and timeliness requires sufficient contact with your child — of course, under the condition of parents’ advancement.

Original article on life.pravda.com.ua.

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