School is out, which means that parents are searching for summer activities for their children that not only get them out of the house and burning energy, but also socializing with other kids their own age.
Unfortunately, the weather may not be cooperating. Last year, the U.S. saw its hottest summer on record since the Dust Bowl summer of 1936, and if the start to this year’s summer is any indication, we may be looking at another record-breaking couple of months ahead.
So, your local recreation organization may now be scrambling to find a mixture of outdoor and indoor activities for when the weather outside doesn’t cooperate. The good news is that there is technology here to help.
The Power to Bring People Together
Over the past two years, recreation departments across the country started implementing new avenues for socialization via technology. By the end of 2020, the National Recreation and Park Association found that 66% of agencies in the U.S. were offering a variety of virtual education and social programs using solutions like Zoom, YouTube, and even public television.
Thankfully, with the increased availability of vaccines over the past year and a half, the need for this virtual programming has certainly decreased. However, 50% of agencies are still planning to offer virtual programming for their youth in the years to come.
So, as you’re looking over your own organization’s summer programs, you’re likely asking yourself, what activities are the right ones for us and our community? There are a number of answers to this question, but one option you may not have considered yet: recreational esports.
Navigating Modern Community Needs
One trend from the pandemic that appears to be here to stay is the widespread increase in internet use. Parents, in particular, scrapped previous technology boundaries as computers, phones, and tablets became their kids’ windows to education, socialization, and entertainment. According to Pew Research, 81% of parents said their kids are now using a tablet computer, up from 68% the year before.
Considering these trends, it’s likely that technology will continue to play a major role in the social lives of adolescents. For many families, their screen time boundaries change from hours played to content consumed. What online activities can kids do that encourage healthy habits and development? That’s where you come in.
By developing a recreational esports program, your recreation department can give parents the power to sign up for specific leagues where playtimes and participants are set in advance, creating necessary structure. But beyond that, recreational esports can tap into a set of benefits that traditional activities can’t.
The Benefits of Playing Esports
Recreational esports offer plenty of benefits. Online gaming leagues offer an inclusive, weather-agnostic, and far-reaching way to bring people together. Communities aren’t just a few blocks — they extend across cities and counties. Recreational esports provide an affordable way to reach everyone, regardless of their geographic locations, physical abilities, or social comfort level.
The benefits of playing esports go far beyond accessibility, though. Unlike traditional sports leagues, recreational esports allows participants to play either at home or in your facilities.
Also, according to a poll from Qutee, 40% of respondents cited improvements to their emotional well-being as the top benefit of gaming. Whether you want events to be in-person or remote, for the whole community or for more specific demographics, esports can be adapted to fit your department’s needs.
How to Develop a Program
Gaming reached mainstream popularity during the 1970s, but the hobby has evolved and become more accessible over the past 50 years. Instead of playing on arcade cabinets and pinball machines, people have apps on their phones and home consoles (like the in-demand PlayStation 5). If you want to provide your community with access to structured recreational play, it’s easier than ever. Here are the steps you can take:
1. Pinpoint your audience. Who in your local community has an interest in gaming? You can poll people via your website, newsletter, or social media to see who might like to join a league. You might discover that parents are looking for kids programming or that young adults want a place where they can gather. Once you know who your potential participants are, you can determine the games and match frequency that would work best for them.
2. Identify resources. Do you have the equipment and staff needed to run in-person programming, or should you host online leagues? Depending on how large your department is, you may not be able to run in-person esports events regularly. The good news is that recreational esports platforms like Mission Control are designed to operate remotely. You can assign someone on your team to host events and then spend most of the time focusing on what you do best: engaging your community.
3. Evaluate the costs. If you don’t already have gaming computers set up in your department or local community center, that’s no problem. You can host online recreational esports leagues that people can join using their own equipment for the mere cost of an online gaming network subscription ($5-$10/mo). This makes them more affordable than traditional sports leagues, which cost an average of $692 per participant.
4. Select key performance indicators. You need to know how you’ll measure program success. Are you looking for more revenue, amenities to connect with the new generation, or inclusive opportunities for all kinds of people? Your goal will help you choose a platform, games, and more. For instance, if you want to appeal to Millennials and Generation Zers, then you’ll want to make decisions based on that goal.
5. Determine areas to improve. Don’t stop with your first program. Continue to listen to your community and provide what they want. Platforms like Mission Control have first-party data that you can use to evaluate which games community members like and when they usually play, among other things. If program participants really like the third-person battle royale game Fortnite, for example, you might consider offering the online multiplayer battle arena game League of Legends.
Luckily, you don’t have to do this on your own or create a platform for yourself. Whether your staff is made up of noobs or gaming pros, Mission Control and its team of gaming experts are here to help. With our easy-to-use community platform, your team can create esports leagues and tournaments within minutes for your community to sign-up for. Instead of spending time learning esports or on the operations of those activities, you can instead focus on what you do best: gathering and growing your community.
Now that you know what it takes to provide recreational esports to your community, you can look into potential programming and add it to your summer activity offerings today. While the past pandemic and this upcoming summer heat make it difficult to gather traditionally, it is possible to still foster a connected community despite what’s going on in the world. And let Mission Control help you with that.