Everyone knows that heading back to school this fall is going to be weird. Instead of stumbling
out of their dorm rooms in the morning to attend classes with friends, students might be rolling
out of their childhood beds and walking to their kitchens to take online college classes next to
While this setup might not be ideal, there is one medium that can help students capture at least
some of the college experience: video games.
Despite what you’ve heard or read, video games provide opportunities to build the critical skills
that many students usually develop in college. If you’re trying to make the most of the online or
hybrid school year, consider embracing the online gaming community and recreational esports at
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In a typical year, every college campus in America is filled with people from diverse
backgrounds coming together and broadening their understandings of the world. Students work
alongside peers and professors to tackle complex problems collectively, learning valuable
communication and team management skills in the process. During this global pandemic,
however, opportunities for in-person collaboration and learning are scarce.
Similarly, college social life offers opportunities for students to make lifelong friends and
valuable professional contacts while carving out their own identities within a clearly defined
community. But this year, students will lose that. Incoming freshmen probably won’t have
comprehensive, in-person orientations to help them adjust and meet people. Instead, they will
rely on digital socialization tools like online chat rooms, videoconferencing, and, yes, video
Like college, online games expose players to people from all over the world and challenge them
to work collaboratively with friends and strangers alike. Video games serve as versatile digital
arenas where students can cultivate vital skills and fill the void created by a socially distant,
digitized college experience. Although face-to-face meetings aren’t an option, students can join
online gaming communities at their schools and enjoy endless opportunities for self-expression,
socialization, and fun.
Maximize the Online College Experience
People lean on each other in times of chaos, and 2020 has undoubtedly set a new standard for
chaos. However, it’s hard to lean on each other when people can’t be together. New platforms
for connection and community, such as online recreational esports leagues, Zoom trivia nights,
and virtual book clubs, can help students regain a sense of normalcy during an otherwise strange
time. Here are three suggestions to make going back to school suck less for students:
1. Foster unique communities.
Just because students can’t get together at a concert on the quad doesn’t mean they’ll never find
other people who share their taste in music. It’s important to find ways to facilitate connections
between people with shared interests. Within this new digital environment, it’s not surprising
that recreational esports is becoming the premier platform for building communities that span
generations, ethnicities, socioeconomic backgrounds, and other demographics. Through esports
leagues, students can bond over their favorite video games, whether that’s “Fortnite,” “FIFA,” or
“League of Legends.”
2. Provide alternative online activities.
Traditional campus activities might not translate well for remote students. Instead of trying to
force everything online, plan engaging virtual programming like game nights, movie streaming
sessions, and recreational esports leagues. Video games can help encourage cooperation and
teamwork when played with others, and recreational video game leagues allow students to
work together toward a common goal while spending time with each other. This is
especially valuable for students who are disappointed by the cancelation or downscaling of
college sports this year. They may not be able to watch their football team take the field on
Saturdays, but they can play the latest version of “Madden” with their friends instead.
3. Leverage digital tools and platforms.
If there’s one thing the coronavirus pandemic has taught us, it’s that we are more reliant than
ever on technology to stay connected, informed, and entertained. Screens are our portals to the
outside world, so you should see video games and other digital platforms for what they are:
opportunities for students to enjoy the college experience. Encourage students to use Zoom,
FaceTime, and other tools for more than just classes. Promote digital learning resources
like Khan Academy and Coursera as well as communication platforms like Discord and Slack.
When organizing events, use tools like Kahoot! for trivia nights, Netflix Party for group movie
streaming, Bingo Maker for prize competitions, and Mission Control for recreational esports.
You won’t be able to replicate the full college experience online, but you might be surprised by
how close you can get. Digital tools, online activities, virtual communities, and recreational
esports can help students feel grounded and engaged during the COVID-19 pandemic. To make
going back to school more enjoyable for college students, capitalize on the resources available.