When we think of video games, we often equate the experience to a fun virtual adventure. Seldom do we think of the possibilities of a career ignited at the intersection of video games and education. The unexpected happened again for a second year in a row during a Suncoast Remake Learning Days event hosted by FUNducation in partnership with Greatness Beyond Measure at the Alfred R. Goldstein Library at Ringling College of Art and Design. During their event, “Beyond Gaming,” children, teenagers, families, and community members gathered to participate in an Esports EDU event to expose and engage families and youth in the community to opportunities in the gaming industry. The event included educating parents and students about esports, a live youth gaming tournament, and live AR and VR games.

In an ever-evolving world where digital access and digital literacy are essential, careers and futures have been reimagined. Today, there are expansive career opportunities in the gaming space. Historically, this industry has only been accessible to community members with financial means to purchase video game consoles for their children who were inspired to pursue careers in the lucrative gaming industry. That dynamic has changed, and it’s a direct result of programming like “Beyond Gaming,” which is breaking barriers of access to connect all community members, regardless of financial means, to this growing industry. Recent data shows over 3.09 billion gamers worldwide (Juniper Research, Venture Beat, IBISWorld, and eSports Earnings; 2023). That’s a significant chunk of the world’s population

Under the Remake Learning Days themes of Science and Technology, community members ages 8+ participated in video gaming tournaments and learned what happens behind the scenes to orchestrate such tournaments and events. It wasn’t only about video games; it was about immersing in roles and responsibilities around planning and managing events, programs, and participant experience. Attendees thought through what’s involved in pulling together a tournament and the many facets of teamwork that make the event a success. Building these life skills that couple symbiotically with a booming industry full of opportunity equips our community members with digital literacy and management skills to benefit their careers and life.

FUNducation, one of the primary event hosts, empowers the youth of tomorrow through exposure, engagement, and empowerment, inspiring innovation via education in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (S.T.E.A.M.). FUNducation fulfills this mission through hands-on programs that expose kids to S.T.E.A.M. career options and gives those unsure of what they want to do an opportunity to explore concepts in career pathways. Neirda Thompson-Pemberton, Executive Director of FUNducation, is the visionary behind these endeavors, helping community members from diverse backgrounds achieve their highest potential and explore all possibilities.

“Beyond Gaming” was one of many events that took place during a 10-day festival of free events for children and families from April 21 to April 30, 2023. Suncoast Remake Learning Days built on the assets and strengths of our region, reinforcing the knowledge that Learning Happens Everywhere and affirming that we are working together toward greater outcomes for our children and families. Suncoast Remake Learning Days events were organized by learning themes: Arts, Maker, Outdoor Learning, Science, Technology, and Youth Voice. Additionally, there were Professional Development opportunities for school, out-of-school, childcare, and non-traditional educators. As a result of the generosity of The Patterson Foundation, these multi-generational hands-on learning experiences were robust, free, accessible, and open to the public.

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