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IN the recent budget, the government announced an allocation of RM10 million for the development of e-sports. According to Wikipedia, e-sports “is a form of competition using video games. Most commonly, e-sports take the form of organised, multiplayer video game competitions, particularly between professional players.”

Many parents consider playing video games as a waste of time. While this may be true, more and more professional players have emerged from all corners of the world, Malaysia included. Last year, a group of Malaysian professional e-sports players won second place in a global competition, taking home over US$4 million (RM16.78 million). That’s a lot of money; an amount that most people can’t accumulate even in their lifetime. On a smaller scale, more and more competitions are sprouting up offering thousands of ringgit as cash prizes.

So what can parents do to address this new phenomenon? It’s a tough choice because not everyone will be an e-sports champion and win thousands of dollars. For most players, they may end up wasting precious time which could have been used in better ways. But since e-sports is here to stay, let’s look at its pro and cons.

ACTIVE VS PASSIVE

Most parents’ biggest worry about e-sports is its passive nature. Children tend to sit down for a long time just staring at the screen. However, some manufacturers have tried to make e-sports more active. One example is the Nintendo Wii. Players actually have to move around and even sweat a little.

Unfortunately, most other e-sports manufacturers have yet to catch up. Hopefully this will become the norm over time especially now that technology has evolved to include virtual and augmented reality. Until then, parents need to ensure that their children stay active in whatever way possible.

SOCIAL NETWORKING

One thing that’s unique about modern e-sports is its huge social networking capability. When your kids play, they’re also making friends with other players. Some are their real friends while others are their game buddies. Contrary to popular belief, social skills are promoted through e-sports too.

While it’s not quite as “social” as actually being “physically” there, at least there’s still some exposure to human interaction — even if it is just online. Manners and words still need to be observed if they want to be popular. They have to help one another if they want to succeed to the next level. Our job is to ensure that they don’t lose the basic courtesy of friendship just because they’re safely behind each other’s screens.

At the end of the day, there’s no perfect solution. We can’t ban them totally from e-sports. But neither can we allow them unlimited time online in the hope that they’d turn professional and make millions. As more and more e-sports players emerge, it’s all about balancing their lives especially when they’re still young. We can get the best of both worlds if we can responsibly mix the two. As long as the balance is achieved, our children can benefit from both “actual” sports and the e-sports arena.

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