Lawmakers acknowledge esports as part of equitable solution
Rep. Burgos leads roundtable, tour on esports in education, economy
PHILADELPHIA, April 19 – State lawmakers learned more about the billion-dollar industry of esports and its positive impact on the economy and education during a House Majority Policy Committee roundtable discussion and tour Wednesday.
Esports, which is short for electronic sports, are video games played in organized, competitive environments for spectators or the viewing public. Esports are increasingly becoming more common in high schools and higher education, since it exposes a diverse group of students to not only careers in gaming and software but also a multitude of STEM-related careers – and develops familiarity with digital technology at a young age.
“As we heard today, esports can provide the spark needed by students to encourage academic and emotional development,” said Rep. Danilo Burgos, who represents portions of Philadelphia and is the chairman of the Policy Subcommittee on Progressive Policies for Working People. “One of the most exciting aspects about esports, for me as a legislator and Latino, is its potential for an equitable solution to our strikingly low number of Black and Hispanic workers in STEM-related careers. Esports attract a diverse group of students, regardless of race or gender, and it has proven itself as a gateway into encouraging young people to pursue STEM education as well as STEM-related careers.”
While esports teams exist throughout Pennsylvania at the high school level, the cost associated with starting up these programs – thousands of dollars in equipment and supervisors – in economically disadvantaged school districts pose challenges. One of the pieces legislation lawmakers looked at was H.B. 795, which is authored by Rep. Mike Schlossberg (D-Lehigh) and creates a dedicated, sustainable funding stream to support quality extracurricular programs for students from every zip code.
“At first glance, esports might look like only video games, but one of the greatest aspects of extracurricular activities is to create an atmosphere where students build friendships and learn outside a classroom,” said Rep. Mike Schlossberg, D-Lehigh. “Esports not only provides those opportunities, but it also exposes students to new digital technology and presents the possibility – like traditional sports – for students to earn college scholarships.”
During the roundtable discussion, lawmakers from around the state heard from Samantha Bickel, the executive director of Pennsylvania Interscholastic Esports Association; Jennifer Metz, Ph.D. and associate professor from Harrisburg University; Bill Thomas, a founding board member of PIEA; and Ishmael Hall, the general manager of Localhost Philadelphia by Nerd Street.
Studies show Black youth make up the largest portion of the gaming teenage community, yet Black workers account for only 9% of the jobs in STEM-related fields.
“Esports offer students another chance to interact and learn alongside their peers,” House Majority Policy Committee Chairman Ryan Bizzarro said. “It also has the potential to bring together a diverse group of students, and it encourages an interest and understanding of the science and digital technology being used at their fingertips. Esports also offer a tremendous economic opportunity for Pennsylvania.”
The committee traveled to Localhost, which is owned and operated by Nerd Street, to hear from experts and business insiders on the growing esports industry, and its potential positive effects on Pennsylvania’s economy and workforce. Following a roundtable discussion, lawmakers toured Localhost, which is located not far from Philadelphia’s center city and hosts sports competitions, bootcamps, training sessions, summer camps and a wide variety of casual play video games.
Lawmakers then toured Netrality’s fiber-connected, urban-situated colocation Data Center, which houses network providers, cloud platforms and other infrastructure to ensure connectivity for their vendors.
Information about this hearing and other House Majority Policy Committee hearings can be found at pahouse.com/policy. Testimony from today’s hearing and past policy hearings can be found at pahouse.com/policycommittee/hearingmaterials. Photos to be used for publication can be found at pahouse.com/PolicyCommittee/Galleries.