Gaming: from kid stuff to big business

By Anna Lardinois

Startup Storyteller

The 1970s ushered in the age of video games. Kids packed into arcades with their pockets full of quarters eager for the opportunity to play games like Computer Space and Pong.

Times have definitely changed.

Today, video gaming is a multi-billion dollar industry that employs 1.8 million Americans. The arcades have been replaced by home gaming systems. According to the Entertainment Software Association, 226.6 million people in the United States play some form of video games, and that number continues to increase.

The explosion in popularity of video games led to the creation of esports. Developed by elite video gamers, this form of organized, competitive video gaming brought in an estimated $1 billion of revenue last year. Competitive esports teams have sprung up in high school and colleges all over the country, and these players are competing for more than just bragging rights- college scholarships, cash prizes and more are awarded to the top players.

Locally, MKEsports Alliance is championing the development of this growing industry in the metro-Milwaukee area. By providing support and connections for burgeoning esports teams and gaming businesses, the MEA hopes to make Brew City a key player in the esports industry.

MPS Foundation executive director, Wendell Willis joined MKEsports Alliance fourth quarter community meeting to discuss esports in Wisconsin’s largest public school district. Eager to leverage the popularity of gaming into increased student engagement, Milwaukee Public Schools has opened the door to gaming in a variety of ways.

On utilizing gaming in the schools, Willis said,” We know that many of the suburban school districts are ahead of us. We want to catch up, and supersede them, to be honest.” Aware that participation in esports could lead players into the development of in-demand technical skills and post-high school opportunities, MPS continues to explore ways to incorporate gaming into its curriculum.

Two MPS high schools have competitive esports teams, Ronald Reagan High School and Rufus King High School. As the district gets access to additional computers and esports coaches, the list of participating schools is expected to grow.

Four of the eight Twilight Centers operated by Milwaukee Recreation have computer labs devoted to esports. The department’s Summer Playground Program mobile game van launched in 2021 and was a hit with young gamers. Andrew Rossa, Coordinator – Playgrounds & Community Centers, notes playground participants were eager to compete with each other using the kinetic video game Dance Dance Revolution. The popular program will continue in the summer of 2022.

To learn more about MKEsport Alliance, click here.

To learn more about eSport coaching opportunities at MPS, click here.

Tschacher moderates panel at StarBash 2021. From left, Dr. Krista-Lee Malone (UW-Madison Gaming), Patrick Glogovsky (Bucks Gaming), Ahman Green (Lakeland University)

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