DEI in K12 Esports: Promoting Positive Gamesmanship

Winning. Two young happy professional cyber sport gamers giving fist bump and celebrating success while participating in eSports tournament. Online video games

Player demand for creating inclusive gaming spaces continues to increase with the growing participation of players from all walks of life. 59% of adult gamers want legislation requiring game companies to be more transparent about how they handle identity-based discrimination and harassment. Efforts are growing to expand inclusion at the professional level. In 2021, the Special Olympics teamed up with Microsoft to launch “Gaming for Inclusion,” a three-day gaming competition for Special Olympics athletes that not only combated the isolation resulting from canceling in-person events during the pandemic but also showcased how Esports by virtue of its digital platform can be inclusive.

Combating Toxic Gaming Environments

Expanding representation in gaming at the K-12 level is the foundation for boosting minority participation rates within collegiate and professional-level gaming spheres. But data on the current rate of harassment of minority gamers outside of school Esports program reveals that minority recruitment is not enough. Building K12 Esports clubs steeped in positive team building and sportsmanship is the driving force for impacting a future gaming atmosphere outside of school.

Esports has historically been white men, and the gaming world is notorious for its toxicity towards female players. The statistics on harassment towards other minorities, including youth gamers, are not much better than those on women’s treatment.  

Identity-based harassment of adult gamers

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reports the following 2020-2021 stats on discrimination against minority players:

  • Women — 41% in 2020; 49% in 2021
  • Black/African American — 31% in 2020; 42% in 2021
  • Asian American — 26% in 2020; 38% in 2021
  • LGBTQ+ — 37% in 2020; 38% in 2021

The overall increase in harassment from 2020 – 2021 shows discrimination is systemic. As more minorities participate in gaming, discrimination is climbing, making inclusive Esports programs a necessity.

Identity-based harassment of youth gamers

2021 stats from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reveal that 60% of kids experienced harassment while playing online multiplayer games, and because of this, 67% always or sometimes hide their identities. Here is the breakdown of harassment by identity:

  • Girls/women — 22%
  • Black/African American — 31%
  • Asian American — 19%
  • LGBTQ+ — 7%
  • Latinx — 13%
  • Muslim — 14%
  • Jewish — 7%

To make an impact on the gaming world outside of K-12, you’ll need to lay an inclusive foundation at the K-12 level.

Tips for creating an inclusive Esports program

To create a welcoming environment for all players, incorporating SEL and Digital Citizen topics into your Esports program is essential. You’ll want to ensure there is proper oversight and disciplinary action for unsportsmanlike harassment. Here’s how you’ll to attract and support diverse players to your program.

  • Share how the club is inclusive and welcoming
  • Offer diverse games
  • Provide student voice and choice

Finding out what games interest students and giving them choices can boost participation and let them know the club is tailored to their interests. Openly share how the space will be inclusive and welcoming in your recruitment efforts.

Resources for DEI lessons

Consider potential social-economic discrimination

Can everyone who wants to participate in your Esports do so? Consider monetary barriers that could keep kids from joining. Your Esports program can scale and providing high-quality, yet affordable equipment is essential to building an inclusive program. One of the essential pieces of equipment that students will need to start our their Esports season is the proper audio equipment. Responding to the needs for a high-quality affordable gaming option, AVID Education recently launched their new  AE-79 Headset that’s a universal and accessible solution for all learning environments, including Esports and EGaming. Students will have the all-important inline volume-control to easily adjust or mute volume and a bidirectional, noise-canceling boom mic that can filter out background noise and let them speak clearly to their team.

By recruiting more students into your Esports program who might otherwise feel out of place and developing DEI initiatives, you’ll create a club worth joining that can have a positive ripple effect on the gaming world.


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