From menace to memory booster: video games connect youth, community, nonprofits, thanks to Community Esports League

A Kansas City-based esports league is working to connect communities and assist non-profits through competitive video gaming. Community Esports League is an inclusive, community-driven gaming league geared towards youth and hobbyist gamers to foster healthy competition and the creation of sustainable connections online.  AbdulRasheed Yahaya, chief business development officer for Community Esports League, said the…

Photo courtesy of Sean Do, https://unsplash.com/@everywheresean
Photo courtesy of Sean Do, https://unsplash.com/@everywheresean

A Kansas City-based esports league is working to connect communities and assist non-profits through competitive video gaming.

Community Esports League is an inclusive, community-driven gaming league geared towards youth and hobbyist gamers to foster healthy competition and the creation of sustainable connections online. 

AbdulRasheed Yahaya, chief business development officer for Community Esports League, said the league brings disparate players together to bond over shared experiences.

“We want our youth to create healthy emotional relationships with one another (through) video games,” Yahaya said.

“We have learned that our youth are going to be in front of a screen regardless, whether it’s a small screen in their pocket or a big screen on the wall,” he continued. “For the benefit of parents and guardians, we just control what’s on the screen for them.”

Community Esports Leagues runs six seasons per year. Each season is five weeks long and includes a weeklong championship. A mix of sports, action and adventure games are available for players to compete in, including “Call of Duty: Warzone,” “Fortnite,” “Super Smash Bros Ultimate,” “Madden NFL 20,” “NBA2K21,” “Rocket League” and “League of Legends.” 

The competition and seasonality of the league format, which features monetary prizes, is designed to keep the undertaking exciting and flexible.

A major supporter of the endeavor is Ahman Green, a former NFL running back who played 12 seasons and still holds a Green Bay Packers record for his 98-yard run at Lambeau Field against the Denver Broncos in 2003. Green is currently head Esports coach at Lakeland University in Plymouth, Wisconsin, one of Community Esports League’s partner organizations. Yahaya considers Green both a friend and colleague, having met him through a “Madden NFL 20” tournament this past February. 

“We kind of just clicked over sports talk and trash talk,” Yahaya said. “He plays Call of Duty with me at night.”

Building Young Minds through Video Games

Video games have come a long way over the decades, from “menace” to memory booster. Research suggests video games can help boost social memory and cognitive skills in children. Some schools are even implementing esports leagues and video game curriculum to enrich students’ lives.

Yahaya said that schools that have implemented esports leagues have experienced increases in student GPA and attendance, possibly by way of increasing students’ motivation. (Complete High School Maize of Maize, Kansas is one such school.)

“When I was in high school, I skipped school to play video games,” he said. “But when the video games are at school, it’s like, ‘why leave?’”

And as a form of entertainment unto itself, esports is big business. Before the coronavirus hit, Business Insider projected the esports industry to surpass $1.5 billion in revenue by 2023. While the industry suffered from the cancellation of in-person esports events, Yahaya said participation in the leagues themselves has increased because everyone is online. 

The uptick in virtual audiences is an unexpected benefit of the pandemic which gives businesses the opportunity to evolve and provide better services, Yahaya said.

The increased importance of online connections also gives companies the chance to collaborate like never before. In addition to helping gamers develop stronger online connections, Community Esports League facilitates information sharing and ecosystem building between its socially minded partner organizations like the AIM Institute and Disabled But Not Really.

“If we can provide some opportunities for these businesses to network and work together, we can build a better ecosystem for all,” Yahaya said.  

Season Two of Community Esports League launches Monday, August 3, with over $8,000 in cash and prizes available for competitors of all ages. Seven games are available for players to compete in for a registration fee of $25 per game per 5-week season. Depending on the game, registration runs until August 2 or 3. 

A portion of registration fees will benefit the AIM Institute, a nonprofit focused on strengthening Omaha’s tech talent community and increasing access to tech education. 

When registering, the code AIMInstitute can be used to help support the non-profit.

For more information, and to register for competition, visit the Community Esports League website.

 

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