Esports and
Human Flourishing

Collegiate Track

10/08/20, 2:00PM - 2:30PM PT

About the Presentation

While establishing esports programs at universities, I’m sure that many of us have experienced push back from some members of the faculty, especially those in the humanities. This paper is going to outline how esports, and thus a collegiate esports program, promotes classical, Aristotelian human flourishing of the sort that humanities programs wish to cultivate.

For Aristotle, the best human life is the happy life and all of ethics is aimed at providing this. However, happiness for Aristotle is a little different than we might immediately imagine, and sometimes we use the word “flourishing” to more adequately capture what he had in mind. Aristotle thought that we needed to cultivate virtue in order to be able to fully flourish, and his list of virtues was quite extensive including things like wittiness. Aristotle argued that we cultivate virtue through practice until the actions become habitual.

Esports, and collegiate esports programs, are able to accomplish much of what Aristotle had in mind and can provide grounds for us to enable flourishing in our students. For instance, Aristotle argued that the good life required not only close friends, but also a well-developed social life. Aristotle also considered things like courage and temperance to be important virtues that must be cultivated. For many of our students, these are virtues that may be lacking. Students struggle with tilting and toxicity, demonstrating a lack of temperance. Students struggle to have well-developed social lives, or to be effective leaders. All of these things are, for Aristotle, moral failings. Yet, esports offers lots of opportunities for us to correct these behaviors and thus lead our students towards happier lives.

By working with our students on, for example, toxicity and tilting, we are essentially teaching them temperance in a specific setting, a skill that they can then extend to their everyday lives. In this paper, I will give examples of different practices that both improve our students’ ability to be esports athletes, as well as develop their Aristotelian virtues in ways that should bring about their flourishing. I end by arguing that collegiate esports programs should be committed to this kind of growth, and by sketching out various ways that programs can achieve these goals.

Dr. Russ Hamer

Director of Esports, Mount St. Mary's University

Dr. Russ Hamer is the Director of Esports at Mount St. Mary's University, where he runs the esports program, coaches the teams, and teaches courses in esports and gaming. He received his PhD in Philosophy from Marquette University. He is also the co-founder of JustEsports, an organization working on justice initiatives in the esports space.