The Minnesota Varsity League (MNVL) expanded its eSports repertoire by introducing MNVL Jr., a league for middle school students.
According to a KSTP TV report, this expansion caters to the burgeoning demand for academic eSports programs among younger students. It underscores the growing significance of eSports in the educational landscape.
MNVL, a Wisdom Gaming-owned hub for high school eSports leagues, has grown since its inception in 2019. Initially serving high school students, MNVL has seen its participation swell to over 1,200 students across 69 schools. Recognizing the increasing interest in eSports among younger age groups, MNVL Jr. was launched to allow middle school students to engage in competitive gaming.
Hearts and Minds: The @MNVarsityLeague (MNVL) announced that it will expand its esports programs to include middle school students in the state under the auspices of a new league called MNVL Jr.https://t.co/zdktSIyvtZ pic.twitter.com/nC0hV3TOGy
— The Esports Advocate (@TEAdvocated) December 6, 2023
MNVL Jr. mirrors the format of its high school counterpart, offering popular titles like Mario Kart, Super Smash Brothers, Chess, and Minecraft. This move is expected to attract schools primarily from the greater Twin Cities area, replicating the trajectory observed in MNVL’s high school league. Jake Utities, Director of MNVL, said:
“We are thrilled to expand our mission by providing this first-of-its-kind academic eSports program for Minnesota middle schools.”
“This initiative has always been a goal that has received nothing but support from the community,” he added.
The role of eSports in academic success
Integrating eSports into school curricula is a response to the evolving landscape of extracurricular activities in education. Research consistently shows that involvement in school activities, including eSports, enhances students’ academic performance and well-being. By engaging in eSports, students often experience improved attendance, higher graduation rates, and increased aspirations for higher education.
MNVL Jr.’s approach to eSports emphasizes inclusivity, aiming to reach diverse students, including those traditionally less engaged in school activities. eSports teams provide a social platform for students, fostering a sense of community and belonging. Additionally, participation in these teams offers valuable lessons in teamwork, strategic planning, and managing success and failure.
eSports also aligns closely with STEM education, attracting students interested in technology and related fields. This intersection presents an opportunity for schools to encourage students to explore careers in science, technology, engineering, and math.
MNVL’s shift to focus on younger players coincides with a change in sponsorship. Initially supported by professional eSports and sports teams, MNVL now enjoys backing from collegiate sponsors. This transition reflects broader market changes in the eSports industry and highlights the potential return on investment for sponsors, particularly in the collegiate arena.
The nationwide trend and the future of eSports in schools
The emergence of MNVL Jr. is part of a nationwide trend of growing eSports programs in schools. Across the United States, leagues like the High School eSports League (HSEL) have increased, with over 1500 schools participating. Including eSports in school programs is increasingly becoming mainstream, recognized not just as an extracurricular activity but as a significant contributor to student development and community building.
The Minnesota Varsity League’s (MNVL) expansion to include MNVL Jr. reflects the organization’s response to emerging trends in the educational sector. This shift, focusing on structured, competitive gaming for middle school students, aligns with this age group’s increasing interest in eSports. MNVL’s introduction of MNVL Jr. indicates a shift in the educational and extracurricular landscape, recognizing eSports as an increasingly prevalent activity.