Innovation Centers: Maximizing Your eSports DollarsA Journey to Finding Your Why.

eSports in education is all the buzz. So much so, that you may find yourself wanting to jump right into the game. Or maybe you are hesitant… maybe you are not exactly sure why it’s become such a huge phenomenon, or what the benefits are to your school community and the students who play, or why you need it at all.

Let’s explore!

More Than Just a Game

On the surface, generally one’s first reaction to eSports programs in schools is the same as the stereotypical response to video games … perhaps your parents felt negatively towards video games, or maybe even you do not feel they’re a productive use of time. After speaking with many parents and colleagues about their opinions of video games, the common theme was often a negative opinion until they realized what eSports has to offer. The fact of the matter is, on a basic level, adolescents learn through play. The question with eSports is not are they learning, but what are they learning?


Just as traditional youth sports improve life skills like goal setting, time management, work ethic, empathy, negotiation, increased empowerment, personal responsibility, and self-control; eSports programs can reach students traditional sports may not. “80% of eSports teams are comprised of students that have never participated in extra-curricular activities.” Archambeault, L. (2020, February 10). It’s Time for Schools to Embrace Video Games. Retrieved June 19, 2023, from

As a family, we are so proud of Ben and where he has gone with his performance in Rocket League. Having played for years prior to joining the eSports program, it’s amazing to see his confidence level rise.”

Clarissa McCann, Florence 1 student parent

Games like FIFA and Rocket League build 21st Century soft skills that students may not learn in other areas of academia and life. eSports is all-inclusive regardless of gender, race, age, and athletic ability. The inclusivity of eSports programs opens the door to build community among students and build soft skills such as communication, interpersonal skills, negotiation, adaptability, self-control, creativity, and critical thinking. At the same time, a student’s self-worth and confidence grows with every practice, through the acceptance and well-being of belonging to a community. eSports in education teaches time management, goal setting, passion, and drive. Catapulting students into the desire to set new goals, tackle bigger obstacles and strive to try things they may not have tried before.

Just as with traditional sports, building an eSports community brings people together for entertainment and provides a sense of belonging. The difference being, you can play with anyone, anywhere at anytime and the relationship is not any different than if that person was in the same room as you. eSports opens the door to meeting and gathering with larger groups of people from various regions in the world!

Florence 1 Schools (SC): Product and design provided by mediatechnologies and Co-Designed by PinnacleNS (SC)

eSports in education provides students with an alternative track to play a sport, be an athlete, and belong to a team. Designed and developed in 2019 and installed by 2020, Florence 1 eSports Arena has held many competitions and has gone to the playoffs every year since its inception.

Ranking in the top 8 and 16 in the nation in the High School Esports League, with a top 4 in Valhallen Esports League. When not in the regular season leagues, F1S has traveled and competed in the CEC Invitational, located in Concord, NC winning 1 competition per trip. Also worth mentioning, F1S has competed biannually with Florence Country Park and Recreation, where they have consecutively placed for three years.

Five students have received scholarships since the program began: one student for Rocket League in the first year, three students for Overwatch in the second year, and one for Overwatch just this past year. There are roughly 200 programs currently offering varsity scholarships for eSports athletes and this list continues to grow. In 2020, “Colleges offered over $16M in scholarships” according to Forbes Magazine. (Venero, B. (2020, February 6). Is Good for Schools, Students And Even Employers. Retrieved June 19, 2023, from

Consider how your students may benefit from the social emotional, soft skills, community, and confidence that eSports programs have to offer. Do you recognize a need for this in your school?

Reimagine Your Space

There are two ways to look at this. One is your physical space and its capabilities (more on that later) and two, what will you want to accomplish in your space? Let’s dive into the latter.

What does a gymnasium, cafeteria, and a media space have in common? They are rooms that were intended or designed to accommodate a special purpose and although that special purpose is quite clear, we often find multiple uses for each space. The same can be said for Innovation Centers. Consider the main purpose of your Innovation Center to be an eSports program, while adding other uses that would allow the space to be used throughout the entirety of the school day for curriculum-based classes as well as after school for eSports club gaming and competition, utilizing the opportunity to create CTE pathways.

Academically speaking, students who take part in an extracurricular activity are more engaged and less likely to drop out. Like traditional sports, grades must be kept up in order to remain eligible. eSports involves many career avenues beyond professional gaming and having an Innovation Center to support students’ success is essential. Careers such as game design, marketing and/or team management, journalism, live broadcasting, and programming just to name a few are fantastic pathways to careers that are derived from esports and teachable in education-based programs.


What other areas might we see eSports being used to create benefits? Perhaps an area where you would least expect it – the military. MGL: Military Gaming League, built for American Heroes to bring military families together. Think of the United States Military as our country’s Innovation Center. Some of the goals they aim to achieve with eSports are:

  • Recruiting – attract gamers/younger generation.
  • Connect to Society – give insight into what it means to be a military professional.
  • Training – developing skills needed for combat and readiness, physically and mentally.
  • Community – building communities for active, retired personnel as well as families of military professionals.

For comparison, let’s look at what your goals may be when planning your Innovation Center:

  • Recruiting – students who haven’t found their niche in more traditional based school activities.
  • Training – developing skills for STEM/STEAM careers.
  • Scholarships – opening the door for more students to acquire scholarships for college that they may not have had access to before.
  • Community – inclusivity, a sense of belonging and pride for students, gamers and spectators.

The goals of eSports in Education and the military are similar. When considering an eSports program for your school, ask yourself … How can we add eSports and maximize useability?

We Know the Game

When approaching a design for eSports facilities, the exploratory process brings forth what facilitators and administrators really want to see in their space. Conversation and planning questions to aide in this process fall into four categories:

  1. General – extracurricular (club and afterschool gaming) or tied to a curriculum?
  2. Room Design – existing space to remodel, or new construction? How many zones are needed/desired? Is there a need to incorporate branding of school spirit and possibly sponsors? Is this an innovation center made to incorporate more than eSports? If so, what else will this space be used for?
  3. Curriculum – is there existing CTE to support or does one need to build? How will STEM/STEAM be connected?
  4. Technology – what is the equipment list? What games do we want to compete in?

Darlington County School District (SC): Product and design provided by mediatechnologies and Co-Designed by PinnacleNS (SC): your eSports vision has NO LIMITS!  If you can think it, we can design it!

To create an eSports program, you’ll need a team coach or advisor, gaming equipment, and a room in which to house the program’s physical attributes. Depending on the resources available to you, this could be as simple as converting a computer lab or as robust as a new construction eSports arena, complete with space for announcers and live spectators. Whatever your budget and needs, exploration of the design with eSports design experts, who listen and support you is key.

Will the space be Varsity or Club level?  You’ll either have an Arena environment, sponsored by and for the school, focused on competition at a national level Or a Club environment where gaming is after school and more about students getting together and gaming often playing different games than that of the Varsity team. They still compete, but at a different level.

Keeping that in mind, Innovation Centers/eSports labs usually contain the following zones:

Varsity Competition Arenas

  • Gamers (typically for 3 v 3 and 6 v 6 competition)
  • Spectators
  • Commentators
  • Huddle/Training
  • Storage and/or charging
  • Broadcasting


  • Facilitator
  • Commentator
  • Students/Gamers (typically 1 v 1, and used for warmups when in a room with Varsity play)
  • Collaborative/Programming
  • Breakouts
  • Storage and/or charging

In some eSports facilities, it is necessary to have zones for both Club and Varsity eSports in the same facility. For example, for Morris College, the center had to include Varsity and Club zones, as well as Spectator and Facilitator zones. The solution was to design the space to incorporate a Club Zone comprised of mobile workstations that could later be replaced with lounge furniture to accommodate a Spectator Zone for Varsity competition.

Morris College (SC): Products and design provided by mediatechnologies and Co-Designed by PinnacleNS (SC)

Including your staff, community and students in the planning process will further enable a space that is designed to enhance school spirit and pride with a sense of ownership, bring forth ideas to maximize the spaces potential and allow you as educators to meet students exactly where they are in today’s ever-changing digital world. Careers that didn’t exist before will blossom from this program, allowing impactful curriculum to be delivered and create an environment where students can flourish and grow.

Coach, Gavin Cribb stated that his “favorite aspect of the Arena at Florence 1 in South Carolina was that the space offers multiple ways to watch he kids play. Specifically, from the outside, we have all the televisions that show the kids’ perspective of the game that they are playing. The kids’ favorite aspect of the space is the stadium itself, it’s elevated and has its own area where they can talk and communicate, everyone can see each other together and communicate in a line compared to if they were at home.

Growing an eSports program requires interest from key stakeholders, such as students, parents, and administrators. Funding by way of community and/or grants, and strong ergonomic furniture that supports the technology needed to run your program. Unlike the world of professional sports, eSports in education focuses more on connecting, learning, and playing in and out of the classroom so students, educators and families can experience interest-driven learning. eSports also focuses on building community and developing marketable skills as it relates to STEM/STEAM as well as providing the same social and emotional learning (SEL) benefits as traditional sports, such as teamwork, leadership, and sense of belonging and creating opportunities for safe and engaging spaces.

The eSports community is large, and eager to help you develop your team as part of their community. The opportunities that come from eSports are growing by the day, offering funding and sponsorship, as well as scholarships for students just as traditional sports.

Furniture, technology, and design enhances education and community. Knowing why, how and who will use your Innovation Center to its maximum potential is the key to building your eSports program!


Joyce Degen, mediatechnologies

Joyce joined mediatechnologies in July 2013. Recently promoted to Marketing & Creative Director, Joyce is responsible for all marketing and communications for the company. She directs media relations, social media, branding, advertising, content creation, website development, and finishes program. As a member of the company’s Management Team, Joyce participates in the strategic planning and direction of the company’s short-term and long-term goals. She has more than 10 years of experience in the commercial furniture industry. In (2015), she led mediatechnologies in the rebranding of its logo and redesigning its website.