Collegiate Esports as Learning Ecologies: Investigating Collaboration, Reflection and Cognition During Competitions

Gabriela T Richard, Zachary A McKinley, Robert William Ashley


In this paper, we explore the ways in which a collegiate esports team’s play and performance underscore micro-level shifts in learning, domain mastery, and expertise through simultaneously collaborative and competitive gameplay. Specifically, with this aim, we evaluate how esports’ high-stakes team play and organizational activities provide evidence of processes and practices that are important for learning-relevant trajectories in and beyond higher education. Throughout the course of a threegame match in a major collegiate esports tournament, players demonstrated decision-making, reflection and dimensions of individual and collaborative learning. We also found support for improved meta-gaming knowledge – or distributed, communitycentered knowledge around the game – which underscored players’ domain learning and growth. Our findings highlight
evidence of perceptual learning, as demonstrated through the players’ flexibility in adapting to increasingly complex challenges. We propose that these findings emphasize the importance of esports as meaningful and noteworthy learning ecologies which need to be more deeply examined in light of historic gender and racial barriers to educational and professional aspirations in gaming.


esports, games and learning, collegiate athletics, collaboration, livestreaming, cognitive apprenticeship, equity

Full Text:


Published by the Digital Games Research Association.