New Games-Based Curriculum Offered by High School Esports League and Microsoft

Published: August 29, 2019 9:56 PM /


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Esports continue to expand with a partnership between the High School Esports League (HSEL) and Microsoft. Together they're bringing HSEL Gaming Concepts, a new games-based curriculum, to high schools in North America.

According to a press release, with learning objectives like strategy development, interpersonal communication, technology literacy, social and personal behaviors, and self-advocacy, the HSEL Gaming Concepts curriculum is focused on preparing students for college, career, and life with "social-emotional learning through the lens of video games and esports." This curriculum and its related materials can be downloaded for free at the HSEL website, while a start-up guide and primer course is available at the Microsoft Education Community.


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Founded in 2013, the HSEL is the longest-running and largest organization dedicated to supporting competitive gaming in high schools. Through their after-school program, principal Dr. Kristy Custer and teacher Michael Russell at Complete High School Maize in Kansas were inspired to develop and pilot HSEL Gaming Concepts. The two had noticed that students improved in their academics and general engagement with "organized extracurricular esports." This led to their efforts to form an elective course, approved for high school credit and peer-reviewed by Wichita State University. Students who took this elective were found to have "95 percent or better attendance" and "an average of 1.4 points of GPA improvement."

"Students with chronic absenteeism who do not feel a connection to the school especially benefit from esports,” said Custer. “Eighty-two percent of students on our team had never participated in an extra-curricular activity prior to offering esports.”

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High school esports can also transition into college esports, and their scholarship funds. Wired reports that about 200 colleges in the United States offer approximately $15 million in scholarships per year, and university teams can earn even more in prize money at tournaments. For instance, UC Irvine announced a new scholarship program for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate players earlier this month.

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Wired adds that esports has developed into an industry with an estimated worth of $906 million and supporting infrastructure like "recruiters, coaches, and dedicated arenas."

Game publishers give support to academic esports too. Riot Games founded the Riot Scholastic Association of America for high school and college competition in League of Legends. Blizzard is partnered with Tespa, a collegiate esports organization in North America.


The HSEL recognizes this clear transition from high school esports to college esports. According to the NY Times, the HSEL also "serves as a recruiting pipeline" for universities. 

What do you think about HSEL Gaming Concepts? What do you think about academic esports in general? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.



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