ACU alumna Amy Lau is a teacher who wouldn’t mind seeing more screen time for video games in schools. As controversial as the gamification of a classroom sounds, the way Amy approaches esports might change minds.
Amy is the first to admit she’s a little biased towards wanting video games incorporated into class time. Before she completed her Master of Teaching (Secondary) in 2017, passionate gamer Amy worked as a manager for one of Australia’s top esports teams and reported on the industry as a professional gaming journalist.
As much as it sounds like a case of those who can’t do… going pro was never on Amy’s agenda. “I was an OK player, but marketing and journalism was my real passion,” she said. “Plus, I just didn’t want to put in the hours.
"Esports are like anything else – if you want to be good, you have to train for it.”
Instead of playing, Amy was the manager of The Chiefs Esports Club, which was one of Australia’s top teams at the time. The role came with considerable challenges, with professional esports players, and the industry as a whole, being overwhelmingly dominated by men – with Chiefs players being no exception.
Talk a good game
Amy admits being a woman in charge of a team of young men wasn’t easy.
“I was trying – and I’m still trying – to push for change. While there are a lot of women in esports who work behind the scenes, I did receive plenty of negative comments.
"I was told the only reason I was a manager of Australia’s top team was because I was a girl, like I was some kind of token."
“I just wanted people to see me as a manager and nothing else, but it was hard to be heard,” she said. “What helped is I knew how to carry myself and speak to the boys on my team to build a rapport.
“I don’t believe an all-female league is the answer to this issue either. It’s not like physical sport where men and women have different capabilities. We just need time and more conversation.”
Striking a balance
Gender disparity aside, Amy says the biggest misconception about gaming is people thinking it’s a frivolous, isolating pastime.
“It’s not like that at all,” she said. “It’s actually really social. Often the top teams all live together and have access to a personal trainer for the gym as well as counselling services.
"Everything has to be balanced. It’s not all playing and screen time."
“And it’s big business too. My team had huge sponsors behind them; brands like Red Bull and Logitech. Thousands of people would watch them play from inside a stadium, with countless others watching at home on a screen.”
Leaving the gaming industry behind for a teaching career was always Amy’s plan, but she said studying a Master of Teaching (Secondary) still turned out to be an eye-opening experience.
“It was the most challenging course I’ve ever done,” she said “I’d already completed a bachelors degree as well as a masters in communications, and I’m very good at working by myself. But being a teacher, you have to work collaboratively. I needed to talk to people and share ideas and it really challenged me.”
Teach them a lesson
Even though Amy has now settled into teaching, she hasn’t left gaming behind completely and harbours dreams of introducing it into her classroom.
“People play games for a sense of reward and accomplishment. I think a lot about how this can apply in real life.
“Maybe it could be a separate elective tied to English or media studies.There’s so much for students to learn about developing narratives from games. Perhaps they could build a sandbox game where you create your own world, requiring them to think about a conflict and how the story all ties together,” she suggests.
“Alternatively, a school esports club as an after-school activity could also work, with students having to perform well in their classes to take part,” she said. “Really, it’s just about promoting a balanced life.”
For parents who believe their children already have enough screen time as it is, Amy knows the gamification of the classroom is all about moderation and she’s hardly an advocate for mindless gaming during class time.
“In terms of introducing gaming into the curriculum, I believe if it’s part of their world already, we need to understand it and make it meaningful and beneficial for them,” she said.
“But you have to teach moderation, set regulations and get kids to learn self-management. Then it can be about promoting good mental health and sportsmanship.”
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