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The new varsity

Against the backdrop of growing esports popularity worldwide and here in the Philippines—the National Collegiate Athletic Association announced it is considering including esports soon in its roster of annual sporting events. 

The oldest collegiate association in the country embracing the new—this is, in many ways, a promising conflation. 

But first, I can feel the collective groan of those who disapprove playing computer games, just as I am reminded of something I am sure is very familiar to those who grew up in the era of computer games: 

Kaka-computer mo yan!

Be it being unwell or other misfortunes, trust your skeptical parent to blame it on your penchant for playing computer games. This is a timeless quip -- you could be in the early 90s playing Super Mario or currently hunkered in front of your mobile phone playing Mobile Legends, and this bite-size sermon remains a favorite go-to by captious parents who admonish against the ills of computer games with zeal.

The script remains the same for those who still think the same of computer games—an addiction, a villain, a bane, the root cause of poor eyesight, soreness in virtually any part of the body, cough, colds, or flu, dizziness, violent tendencies, bad grades, deteriorating social life. One way or another, playing computer games is always to blame.

Many people frown upon this popular past time probably because of the belief that computer games dull the mind, that it encourages students to be lazy and lose interest in schooling. Parents don’t like that—not here in the Philippines where it is important to go to school and do good scholastic work. 

But is that the case today? Has playing computer games deterred students from becoming good students?

Ask the graduating class of 2020 how many among them are legit gamers (regardless of whether they are good or not) may it be PC, console, or mobile phone. If those who said ‘yes’ are here to mark the completion of their scholastic mission, it goes to show that gamers can be good students, too,—and quite possibly, good enough to be a student-athlete deserving of all the perks and privileges provided a member of the varsity team. 

The marriage of academe and video games is not surprising. For years, schools have allowed computer technology to enhance the way teaching is deployed and learning is experienced. Researchers even developed video games that optimize learning, supported by data that proves how video games develop essential skills and competencies. They call it the ‘gamification of education’. However, some aspects of computer technology still remain unwelcome in the academic landscape, and that includes commercial video games.

But if esports officially becomes a varsity event— to the protestation and condemnation of many, that’s for sure—this is perhaps a good time to start discarding obsolete stereotypes about computer games and gamers and embracing new realities in this ever-changing world.

And whether they are deliberate about it or not, this move by the NCAA opening its doors to esports is, in itself, a positive statement on key social issues relevant in our world today: inclusion amidst diversity, acceptance, and equal opportunity.

In a time when people are hurt, angry, and indignant because of the continued prevalence of prejudice and stereotypes and the failure to make our shared lives inclusive with equal opportunities for all —school leaders now have the chance to positively influence how students will see and understand the world. Schools can guide students in the right direction as they build their own worldview based on their actual experiences in environments and conditions that influence them strongly.

If we want to promote inclusion, let’s make room for new competitions so that more students can participate. If we want to break stereotypes, let us extend the invitation to engage in a collegiate competition to those oftentimes marginalized because they neither subscribe to nor fit the traditional notions of the athlete archetype and thus perceived as weak, uncoordinated, and clumsy, and build them a platform where they can showcase their own brand of competitive excellence and show that they can be just as intense, just as focused, and just as driven as athletes playing traditional sports.

Let’s use sports. Let’s speak the language many understand.

Topics: National Collegiate Athletic Association , NCAA , COVID-19 , esports , computer games
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