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Interschool esports leagues are becoming more common - and so are related courses and careers Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: An Abu Dhabi school now has an esports lab that will enable students to explore the world of gaming, and promote gamification in education.

Aldar Education’s West Yas Academy, an American curriculum school on Yas Island, inaugurated its esports hub with a competition in vehicular soccer game Rocket League.

“We are thrilled to open this exciting and cutting-edge learning space for our students at West Yas Academy. Esports is a rapidly growing industry, and we have introduced it to all our students across our family of schools,” said Andrew Turner, group head of education technology at Aldar Education.

“Many people believe that esports involves only the playing of digital games and this is not the case. This industry opens up opportunities for our students to enter into careers associated with entrepreneurship, marketing, graphic or game design, coding, 3D prototyping, and many others. We are excited to offer our students the opportunity to explore the opportunities associated with the esports industry and to develop valuable soft skills such as teamwork, communication, and problem-solving,” he added at the launch.

Growth of gaming

In the Middle East, gaming is growing exponentially, with forecasts suggesting that average esports players in the UAE will spend at least $115 (Dh422) per year in the next five years. This is further attracting investment in esports theme parks and venues. Analysts expect the esports market in the Middle East and North Africa region to reach $105 million (Dh385 million) by 2024, with annual growth rates of up to 25 per cent.

Industry reports suggest there are currently over 18 million gamers in the region, with Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Egypt being the largest markets.

Emerging careers

Turner told Gulf News that Aldar schools already have esports leagues.

“We have been looking at emerging trends, and want to empower students in the soft and hard skills required to keep pace. It will also allow children to explore their passion for gaming. Of course, not everyone can go on to become a professional gamer, but if they do have the talent, this will provide a chance to explore it,” he said.

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Teaching concepts

Games can also be used to drive home various concepts taught in the classroom. For example, the axes in Minecraft can be used to teach students about the concept of axes.

“For instance, students at the Al Ain Academy once developed models of bridges using Minecraft, and 3D printed them as part of our project-based learning approach,” Turner explained.

The educator said there are plans to make the new hub accessible in future to students from Aldar’s other schools. The education provider currently operates 30 schools in Abu Dhabi emirate, with about 33,000 students.

Tech collaboration

The West Yas Academy facility has been developed in collaboration with tech company Lenovo.

“With this new initiative, Lenovo is continuing its commitment to supporting education and empowering young people to unlock their full potential through technology. Aldar Education has illustrated a clear understanding of gaming’s potential to profoundly impact students’ lives and confidence in Lenovo to deliver an integrated and customised esports solution. We look forward to working with Aldar Education to bring this exciting new initiative to life and involving all the students through the gaming tournament,” said Mohammed Hilili, general manager at Lenovo Gulf.