Nintendo UK has teamed up with Digital Schoolhouse in order to provide play-based learning games for schoolchildren in the United Kingdom. Digital Schoolhouse is a not-for-profit program created by the UK games industry trade body UKIE and supported by the country's Department of Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS) in order to help educate the next generations of pupils and teachers on advancing technologies within the Computing curriculum.
Their methods seem to be working. In 2018 over 5000 students participated in a multi-school esports tournament held by Digital Schoolhouse, and afterwards over 90% of the students reported that taking part in the tournament made them more interested in computing. The scholastic esports program, which started in 2017 with only four participating schools, has since grown quickly, and Digital Schoolhouse is expecting the number of facilities involved to rise to over 60 with the addition of their newest partners.
Nintendo UK is joining this not-for-profit educational program and will be aiming to help Digital Schoolhouse reach more teachers and pupils than ever before. According to GamesIndustry.biz, the company is hoping to attract a projected 32,000 pupils to the program in order to help them create both practical and "soft" skills by allowing students to participate in professional esports roles as well as letting them continue the learning experience at home with the Nintendo Switch console.
Through a specialized Digital Schoolhouse Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Team Battle tournament, Nintendo UK hopes to bridge the gap between entertainment and education. The director of Digital Schoolhouse, Shahneila Saeed, said they were delighted to have the involvement of Nintendo UK, and that "their support means we can reach even more pupils and teachers than ever with our transformative and inspiring programme." Although Nintendo UK is taking the place of lead partner with Digital Schoolhouse, the project is also supported with help from Sega, PlayStation, Ubisoft, and the Warwickshire County Council.
The value of video games in the classroom has been a long-standing debate among educators and politicians. While many people laud the lessons of consequence and empathy games can deliver, others argue issues like faux violence and forced lethargy are enough to ensure games have no place in an educational environment. It's interesting that Nintendo is championing their constantly updating Smash Bros. series instead of one of their more educational titles like Mario Teaches Typing, but with esports champions earning over $15 million this year alone and colleges giving scholarships to Smash Ultimate players, perhaps parents and educators are beginning to take their student's hobbies a little more seriously. Those students probably won't be upset at having to add information like the top 25 characters in Smash Bros. to their homework loads, at least.