1st country to recognize esports wants more students to get involved — Analysis

Russian universities are embracing Esports, and the authorities have fully supported the movement. According to them, the virtual discipline attracts more students and contributes to the learning process.

On December 15, the winners of Russia’s first international student esports tournament were announced. “Battle for Science” participants from six countries competed in Dota 2 and League of Legends video games for the prize of two million rubles ($27,000). The winning teams were both Russian – from Tambov State University and Moscow Aviation Institute.

The Battle for Science was organized by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education, together with Moscow’s Esports Federation, as well as Synergy University and GIG.ME. In 2023, the country is planning to host a major international esports competition called “Games of the Future.” Russian gamers Team Spirit have been invited to be ambassadors. The team was awarded the International 10 title, which is the Dota 2 esports championship. In the coming event, organizers promise to bring together technology, education, and sport.

Esports plus learning

Russia is beginning to see esports as a major trend. Actually, video games and the education process have been mixing for years, and the approach called ‘gamification’ has been applied in universities all across the world. Specialists from the Russian Technological University MIREA, recognized as the country’s best esports university in 2019, have noted that interaction processes help students to get better involved in learning.

MIREA is taking part in the ‘Priority 2030’ academic leadership program – a major state initiative for universities launched in 2021 – which aims to boost education and research programs. The program also wants the country’s higher-education centers to become more attractive for foreign students and scientists. Priority 2030 launched in the summer. After several months of consideration, over 100 Russian universities had been selected to take part. Under the scheme, each university will be eligible for at least 100,000,000 rubles (1.4 million USD) per year. Hundreds of people applied annually for grants up to 1 billion rubles (13.6 million).

MIREA now has its own competitions and e-sports centers. According to the head of the university’s student sport club, Alexey Menshin, the discipline attracts a lot of potential students. “Esports creates more common fields of activity, it helps to improve communication in certain ways,”He says.

Russia’s Ministry of Science and Higher Education is promising to keep supporting the activity. Minister Valery Fakov stated that the ministry will continue to support this endeavor. “Esports gives the will to win, develops dedication, diligence, perseverance and attentiveness, teaches to work in a team and assume responsibility – the things that lecturers are teaching in the universities.”

1. First recognition

In 2001, Russia became the first nation to recognize esports. However, there was no official union for it, so the discipline lost its title five years later – but was reinstated again in 2016.

Russia’s esports teams are performing very well in the international arena, and an increasing number of foreign students wish to study in the country as a result, professor at the University of Oregon and Russia’s Tomsk State University Mikhail Myagkov told RT. “Esports in universities create a very interesting mechanism for students’ intellectual, cognitive and information potential,”He elaborates.

This year, Tomsk State University proposed to create the National Association of Universities’ Esports N.A.U.K.A. (‘Science’), which has already been joined by more than 20 higher-education centers. Esports research is Tomsk University’s priority strategy, which it is developing as a participant in the Priority 2030 academic leadership program.

“We are researchers, and for us, esports is more than just a game,”  Vyacheslav Goyko, head of the university’s big data analysis center and N.A.U.K.A. RT. “We want to discover how video games are developing people’s minds. We want to understand how to develop people’s cognitive functions with the games.”

Reality is already split in two – an ‘offline’ one and a virtual one, he says. Goyko points to the fact that although some are skeptical of esports it can create a similar psychological tension as traditional sports championships. He explains that Games of the Future is the Olympics for esports and Battle for Science the Russian Championship. “Universities become a place of preparation for sportsmen of the future,” Goyko says. N.A.U.K.A. announced this month. N.A.U.K.A. launched the first CS:GO competition. It attracted 217 teams of 110 Russian universities.

Esports encourages students to be more involved in cybersecurity. For example, Novosibirsk State Technical University – another Priority 2030 participant – is developing a project called “Cybersecure Devices and Technology for Electric Power Systems.” It aims to provide 100% protection for Russia’s power system using domestic technology and software.

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