Putin approves esports in Russian schools. What does this mean for school children, parents, and the industry?
Esports is now officially “in law”
During the Russian open lesson Remembering is Knowing, Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed support for the idea of holding esports tournaments in Russian schools. However, the president in this case limited himself to general phrases that everything should be organised in the “best way” to help Russian gamers perform well at the international level. The head of the state has already promised assistance, and here lies the main question: what exactly will be done to make the school a centre for the development of the most promising sport today? Realnoe Vremya speculates on what will change now in Russian secondary schools and when esports will no longer be an evil for Russians in its purest form.
Russia was a pioneer in recognising esports as a sports discipline
It is important to note that Russia is the first country in the world to officially recognise esports as a sports discipline. This happened back in 2001. However, after some time, this decision was suppressed and hushed up, and esports was no longer mentioned as a sport on the website of the relevant ministry, or in any other sources, for another decade and a half.
Only in 2016, when it became obvious to everyone that esports means big contracts, a huge community, and large-scale competitions in state-of-the-art arenas with thousands of broadcasts, the original decision was returned to Russia. Over this time, the idea of recognising esports has already ceased to look so progressive — the whole world realised its power back in the 2000s. Today, the international esports organization IESF has more than 70 national federations.
And if in the United States the state tries not to take an active part in its development (as in almost all other sports), then, for example, in China, a policy of comprehensive control is carried out in this area. The games must pass the approval procedure of authorised bodies — otherwise it is impossible to release them on the territory of the state.
It is obvious that today, in 2020, when esports becomes almost the only “safe” sport, competitive activity in which does not stop even in the Covid-19 era, it attracts more and more attention of the state. At least because there is a significant share of the youth electorate in games and streaming broadcasts who either already has the right to vote or will get it in a couple of years.
Esports ceases to be “absolute evil” in the eyes of parents?
Returning to Vladimir Putin's speech at the Russian open lesson, we note that he, in fact, legitimised esports in schools, contributing to the destruction of cliches in the minds of many parents that computer games are pure evil.
This cliche, by the way, until recently has been quite successfully spread in the media. One can recall Vladimir Solovyov's programme Polny Kontakt on Vesti FM in 2018, which broadcasted a guest expert Filipp Gross-Dneprov, who blamed a game Doka 2 for the high-profile Kerch tragedy where you need to “kill zombies”.
But there are also reservations. At the open lesson, Putin declared that esports is certainly “highly useful” only if the process of holding esports tournaments is “properly organised”.
Esports and gaming industry will become attractive for domestic investors
In continuation of the previous paragraph, we note that Putin's “quality mark”, as a rule, serves as a signal for businesses, including for figures from Forbes world list. Let us remind that Mikhail Prokhorov and Alisher Usmanov came to finance biathlon and fencing, respectively, in this way.
However, Usmanov has already invested his money in esports (although he later admitted that this sport does not interest him at all) — in 2015-2016, he invested $100 million in Virtus.pro. At that time, ESForse holding was founded on the basis of the Russian club. And in 2018, Mail.ru Group bought ESForce for the same $100 million. Let us remind that Usmanov is one of the main beneficiaries of Mail.ru Group.
“I'm not interested in this at all. These are my young businessmen, they find something, they say it will be interesting, I give them money, they invest. ESforce company sold Mail.ru, received good traffic for esports. It is profitable for Mail.ru — everyone who plays there, is in Mail.ru," Usmanov declared then.
The president's statement may also be a signal for smaller businesses. Recognising the overall positive impact of esports and promising to help with the school championships, Putin made it clear that there is also a certain state order. Esports and the gaming industry as a whole will obviously become a more attractive area for domestic investors.
Russian schools will receive new computer equipment and devices
This includes, and even primarily, purchases of computer equipment and components. A big problem in Russian schools is the long-outdated equipment in computer science classes, on which children are forced to code. And since the president emphasised that the competitions must be organised in the best possible way, the relevant ministry and schools will have to think about updating this material base.
For sure, this update will affect hardware, monitors and other devices to meet the most minimal requirements of the gamer. It is clear that modernisation will not take place overnight, but it is also clear that Putin's statement gives a serious boost to this process in Russian schools.