South African teenagers are more and more frequently engaging in video games at a professional, competitive level. Dubbed ‘esports’, video games played in matches and tournaments around the country for school colours, national recognition, and even prize money, are becoming a norm in local schools.
In 2018, South African esports players made close to R4milion in winnings alone, not including sponsorships, which are routine with professional esports players, much like their traditional sporting counterparts. That same year, one of the biggest earners was Thabo ‘Yvng Savage’ Moloi, who at just 16, in one tournament, won a cool R400,000.
Although a small portion of the $1billion global esports industry, South Africa’s place on the esports map is being secured in schools.
‘There is no doubt that more-and-more schools and universities are seeing the need, and benefit, of participating in esports. Already universities like North West University have taken a real interest in official school leagues and offering bursaries to the winners. In the tertiary field, it is clear that universities see achievers in esports as the people that they want,’ says Colin Webster of Mind Sports SA, an official body helping students achieve Protea colours in esports.
Gaming companies have themselves been pivotal in helping esports get recognised in schools and in aiding students outside of their gaming experience, too. PUBG Mobile has recently launched a ‘Play It Forward’ campaign that will see some South African students winning R25 000 bursaries to help alleviate student debt.
On the campaign, Tramayne Monaghan, Head of PUBG Mobile Africa, has called the initiative ‘part of our broader plan of making sure that gaming is more accessible, that gaming supports higher education, and – most exciting – that gaming supports positive community involvement. Making a positive impact in the lives of students is big on our agenda. We know that educational fees can be a huge burden for our players, and we want to do our bit in supporting them with things that really matter in their world. That’s what “playing it forward” means to us.’
While esports are then undeniably some force for good, it’s also true that video games have garnered a somewhat unfavourable reputation from stories that have circulated over the last two decades. This may make the growing influence of esports a source of concern to parents. However, there are ways for young adults to participate in competitive games in healthy ways.
‘A lot of fear surrounding esports on the part of parents comes from not knowing all the facts,’ writes
Webster, ‘Parents should always ensure that the game titles being played are age appropriate, and that ‘gaming time’ is not excessive. Like all things, too much of anything can be a bad thing. That said, esports, in the correct environment, can offer extremely positive results. Through proper training, players can learn discipline, dedication, loyalty, and sportsmanship.’
Unlike for smaller children, the American Academy of Pediatrics doesn’t have a specific screen-time limit
for teens, but they also caution against excessive exposure to screens.
‘Responsible esports athletes should find an accredited coach, set aside time to practice, and properly schedule-in championships so as not to disrupt sleep patterns, study time, or time spent at school and or university,’ continues Webster, ‘Most importantly, parents should show an active interest in their child’s gaming habits, ensuring that game titles are age-appropriate, that the child is getting enough sleep, and that they still time for other activities. Esports, just like any other sport, must form part of a balanced lifestyle.’
Tips for parents of esports players
- Make sure that the games your children are playing are age-appropriate. Children under the age
of 13 should not play PUBG Mobile, for example. A list of esports age restrictions for local
students can be found here.
- Monitor a teenager’s use of online gaming to ensure that video games are only one part of a
balanced lifestyle that includes a healthy diet, regular physical activity, and other social events
with family and friends.
- When practicing online, ensure that your children are playing in lobbies with people they and you
- Wherever possible, make sure parental controls are active on consoles, PC’s, mobile phones,
and any other devices that a child would use to access online games.
- Restrict a child’s play time if they are prioritising their esports games over healthy habits, friends,
and/or their schoolwork.
- As with any sport, overtraining can result in injuries. Remind your budding esports star to take
plenty of breaks, and make sure that they train using the correct posture to avoid injury.
About #PlayItFoward from PUBG Mobile
The PUBGM #PlayItForward campaign will see big red loot crates dropped around a university or college near you soon. The loot drop will unlock over R50, 000 worth of prizes which includes two bursaries, and loads of spot giveaways like PUBGM merch and Chicken Dinners for students and their friends.
The crates will be dropped at whichever university or college garners the most support from its PUBGM ambassadors. Students can sign up to be ambassadors through the PUBGM website. Each institution will have a unique code, and the more students that download the game with their given code, the more likely it is that they’ll soon be seeing a loot drop on campus. Loot crates will arrive at the two universities or colleges that get the most downloads.
A R25 000 bursary at each institution will be given to the winner of a Single Classic game where the sole survivor takes all. For PUBGM ambassadors at those two universities or colleges, another R25 000 bursary is up for grabs in an ambassador-exclusive game.
About PUBG Mobile
PUBG MOBILE is based on PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS, the phenomenon that took the world of interactive entertainment by storm in 2017. Up to 100 players parachute onto a remote island to battle in a winner-takes-all showdown. Players must locate and scavenge their own weapons, vehicles, and supplies, and defeat every player in a visually and tactically rich battleground that forces players into a shrinking play zone.