Major League Gaming

When I was a kid in the 1960s my biggest dream was to be a major-leaguer. Yes, I wanted to be a baseball player like my heroes Carl Yastrzemski and Tony Conigliaro of the Red Sox. Sometimes I pitched sidearm like Dick Raddatz, the intimidating Red Sox relief pitcher who was nicknamed, “The Monster.” The 21st century kids that I work with don’t seem to be as interested in becoming professional baseball players, but many of them still want to be major leaguers, that is, major league “gamers.”

Major league gamers play video games against players from all over the world. They compete in games such as Call of Duty, FIFA 15, Clash of Clans, and Madden 15. The competitions usually take place in online tournaments or in large arenas and stadiums on enormous screens and are watched by many thousands of ticket holders. Major league gamers have their own live television network, Major League Gaming TV, where they compete for money — large sums of money. Sounds like the major league gaming to me!

These game competitions are readily available to watch live online. Game streaming showcases live gameplay from individual players with outside commentary, as well as groups of players engaging in online competition. Live streams of games such as Call of Duty can be seen on sites such as tv.majorleaguegaming.com and www.twitch.tv. Professional gamers have also been shown on ESPN and other networks who have jumped into the pro gaming phenomena. Live events such as the League of Legends championships in South Korea last October have attracted crowds as large as 40,000 people. In addition to the live crowd, 32 million people watched the lead-ups to the championship online during the previous months.

Many adults ask why kids want to watch others play games instead of playing games on their own. While most children enjoy playing on their own, there is something to be said for seeing the pros play. Just like me when I was 10 years old, kids have a chance to watch their favorite major leaguer on TV (though I had only three channels to choose from). They simply tune into major league gaming TV and watch their heroes play their favorite video games. Many parents question why kids enjoy watching others play video games. Is it really so much different from watching your favorite team play football, baseball, or another sport? There’s something special about observing people who are the best in the world at a craft showing you how they do it.

Unfortunately, becoming a major leaguer in the world of gaming may be even more difficult than making a living being a professional athlete. There is a great deal of competition and not as many opportunities at the present time. There is also not as much support from parents and and other adults for pursuing this goal. Very few parents are busy driving their kids to competitions and pestering their kids to practice their hand/eye coordination skills. Nonetheless, there are millions of highly motivated kids all over the globe who are practicing and improving these skills.

While the vast majority will not become professional gamers, many will end up using some of these skills in their future employment and even during recreation. Just as most little leaguers don’t become professional baseball players, those who love the sport may simply enjoy it as an activity they can pursue for much of their lives by playing, watching, and following their favorite teams. Some will find jobs in the industry as employees of teams or coaches or work as sports attorneys, agents, writers, clothing designers, or statisticians. Similarly, gamers can build a pathway into the growing technology field to help themselves find jobs in hardware and software production, computer programming, and the development of games and apps that might be helpful to others.

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While I would argue that video games can be good for kids, children are still better off spending most of their time outdoors, being in nature, exercising, hanging out with friends, pursuing a creative art, or working on academics rather than sitting in front of the screen all day long. Nonetheless, being engaged in competitive gaming can be a great deal of fun and could lead to a career in the broader world of technology. As in most activities, the key is to strike a balance that accounts for your child’s particular interests but also recognizes his social, emotional, and physical health needs.

So if you child really wants to be a major leaguer, I’d probably still encourage you to get a baseball bat and glove. But if he wants to try his hand, or should I say fingers, at a game controller instead, maybe at least give him a chance.

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