| by Michelle Nettuno, Category Marketing Manager, Technology at E&I Cooperative Services
The popularity of esports, multiplayer video games played competitively for spectators, is now at an all-time high. There are estimates that two-thirds of the U.S. population over age 13 are gamers. Many K-12 and higher education institutions throughout the U.S. are now investing in the technology for the many benefits esports offers their students and the institution.
The Benefits of Esports
In addition to increased hand-eye coordination, critical thinking, focus, problem solving, concentration, math and reading scores, STEM interest, and technology savvy, being part of an esports team helps students sharpen their social and communication skills.
For educational institutions, having an esports program helps attract and retain more digitally minded students, drives media attention, and increases revenue through promotions and sponsorships. Participation in extracurricular activities has also been shown to increase overall student performance, which benefits students and the institution.
Technology for Esports Gaming Facilities
There are many different elements that go into creating ideal esports gaming facilities. You’ll need to select computers with the right Central Processing Unit (CPU), graphics card, and cooling system. You’ll also need to consider components such as the monitor and keyboard, along with peripherals such as a mouse, mousepad, and gaming headset. To help futureproof your institution’s esports technology investments, consider investing in higher-end hardware that has the ability to run new games without issues.
Let’s discuss each of these components in greater detail:
Desktop computers are the best option for institutions that plan to have gaming facilities and don’t want students to move or remove PCs from the area. Desktop computers are simple to upgrade and are easier to keep cool than laptops, which is a major advantage for esports games with high system requirements.
PC Internal Hardware
For esports, it is essential to have a CPU that can keep up with the audio and video feed being rapidly distributed. The clock speed determines how fast the CPU can retrieve and interpret instructions, and is measured in gigahertz (GHz).
- The clock speed of Intel’s 9th generation Core i5 processor is 4.1-4.6 GHz, and i7 is 4.7-4.9 GHz, which beats previous generations.
- A Core i7 minimum equipped PC is preferred for high-end gaming like esports, although gen 9 i5s may be good, too.
- The clock speed of AMD’s 4th generation Ryzen 5 processor is 3.7-4.6 GHZ, and Ryzen 7 is 3.8-4.7 GHz.
All gaming PCs must be equipped with optimal RAM to handle the requirements for esports.
- 8GB of RAM is typically viewed as the minimum to create an esports setup with 4K resolution.
- Many popular esports games now recommend 16GB, which is ideal for balancing performance with budget.
A dedicated graphics card containing a Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) and optimal memory (referred to as VRAM or RAM) is also required. The GPU accelerates the creation and rendering of images, video, and animations.
- For esports, 1080p is good resolution, but if you intend to have students play at 4K resolution, you need a high-end graphics card capable of supporting it.
- One with at least 8GB of VRAM (RAM) is recommended for esports and will help futureproof your investment.
Your graphics card must also be powerful enough to produce the ideal frames per second (FPS) in the games your students play.
- While 60 FPS is acceptable, 144 or more is recommended.
- Although it’s not critical here, esports pros usually try to get 240 FPS to eliminate ghosting and enable smooth animations on the monitor.
Monitors are a crucial element of your esports setup. Investing in high resolution monitors that can handle the intense weight of esports game graphics is essential. The gaming monitors should be:
- large enough for your students to clearly see the games they are playing, roughly 21.5-35 inches is recommended.
- flicker-free, offer a 1ms (millisecond) or quicker response time, and have fast refresh rates.
The refresh rate of the display is the number of times per second the monitor creates a new image. The higher the refresh rate, the smoother the picture display and action will be. The monitor’s refresh rate is measured in Hertz (Hz). To create an ideal gaming experience, the system’s FPS output should match the monitor’s refresh rate.
Selecting the right keyboard is another important decision for your institution’s esports setup. There are two keyboard types to select from: mechanical and membrane.
- Mechanical keyboards are considered the gold standard in esports. A switch under each key clicks when pressed, making it easier to know when a keystroke is registered. They are very reliable and responsive. Some even have the ability to turn off Alt, Tab, and Window keys, which helps players avoid hitting the wrong keys. Mechanical keyboards are extremely durable and have a long lifespan, but are more expensive than membrane keyboards.
- Membrane keyboards are inexpensive and may be a good option for games where keyboard performance is less likely to affect the gaming experience. They are quieter but the keys are less robust, and keystrokes failing to register are common. Issues like ghosting may be a problem as well, which is when a keystroke isn’t registered although the key was pressed correctly.
The mouse is a critical accessory to the esports gaming setup. In fact, the mouse can dramatically affect gameplay, especially with games that require swift, precise movement. However, selecting the right mouse can be tricky, as there are thousands of makes and models to choose from. Focus on the qualities that all student players will benefit from.
Whether to choose a wired or wireless mouse is extremely important. Many esports gamers prefer corded mice because they are more responsive and offer better speed, precision, and durability, but the wire may tangle or get in the way. To avoid this, look for a mouse that’s light and flexible — some even have “phantom” type cords that claim to not tangle. Wireless mice avoid tangles and provide additional range of movement.
The mouse selected should be:
- lightweight and extremely sensitive with no jittering, acceleration, or prediction.
- ergonomically designed, as the mouse should be ambidextrous and good for students with different sized hands.
Believe it or not, there are several advantages of having a mousepad designed for esports. Thickness is important. Opt for a thinner pad when going from a smooth playing surface, or a thicker one if the playing surface is bumpy or uneven. The texture should be smooth and even, offering a glide that is consistent, standard, and comfortable for most players.
Whether you supply your students with headsets or they use their own, a headset is a necessity for esports gamers to effectively communicate and hear their teammates. Comfort is a major factor since players will likely be using them for several hours at a time. Wireless headsets are typically more expensive but help with movement and are more futureproof.
When looking for a headset, consider:
- Good audio quality is critical for hearing game details, which means having large drivers.
- Drivers create the sounds players hear, and the size indicates the loudness. Headphone drivers typically have diameters of 20mm-50mm or more.
- Virtual surround sound of 7 or higher helps players hear everything clearly with audio location precision and makes students feel more immersed in the game.
- Noise cancellation blocks outside distractions, and a built-in noise-cancelling microphone (some are detachable) helps ensure loud and clear communication among teammates.
E&I Suppliers Are Here to Help
E&I suppliers are here to help our members find the best esports technology for your school or campus through our technology agreements, including CDW-G, Connection® Public Sector Solutions, IVCi, SKC Communications, and Columbia Advisory Group (CAG).