AcademicI'm a PhD candidate and public school teacher who has created after-school video game clubs in Des Moines and now in Detroit. I am studying how video game clubs are affecting student engagement. AMA!

Aug 30th 2017 by goldraven • 12 Questions • 690 Points

Greetings everyone!

TL:WR (Too long, won’t read): I created a couple high school video game clubs, current one is in Detroit. I’m trying to give schools/students/parents the tools they need to start their own successful video game clubs. We have an opportunity to engage students into school through their interests in gaming. Everyone wins: students’ education, parents, and gaming companies.

My name is Nick Lenk. I am a physics teacher in Detroit Public Schools Community District teaching at Cass Technical High School. With enrollment at ~2400 students, it makes Cass Tech the largest high school in Detroit.

I run the Cass Tech Video Game Club. Without going into too much detail here, boiled down to the basics, the club meets nearly every Friday from 3:30-6:00pm and through our 26 meetings last year we had an average of 110 students come each week. The basic model for the club is that the students bring in their gaming consoles (one kids brings in his PC), and I provide the monitors they use. We’ve 13 monitors that typically all get used each meeting. The games range from NBA 2K, to Smash, to Just Dance. There’s also a lot of students who bring their TCGs in, with Yu-Gi-Oh! being the most popular.

I am a PhD candidate at Wayne State University (3rd largest public Michigan university located right here in Midtown Detroit). My dissertation is studying how after-school video game clubs have affected their student’s engagement. In my multiple case study of video game clubs in Canada and the US, I’ve found them to be incredibly beneficial at helping the students feel better about school.

Specifically, the most beneficial part is the students feeling like they have a community at their school. The students felt like because of the club they’ve been able to meet several people who they didn’t think liked the same stuff they liked. The students routinely described being appreciative of having peers, and a support community, surrounding their interests. They described this as a large factor in their happiness about school. Students describe their club as being a significant factor in forming their group of friends.

I am trying to lay down the literature that students, teachers, parents, and administrators can use to convince their peers that these kinds of clubs are far more than just a place where students can come to play video games. They’re a place where students build relationships with classmates, have healthy interactions with adults, have a place where video game addiction can be discussed, and have a place that will help them reengage with schooling.

The after-school club model has existed for nearly a century. We can still use this approach for our current students’ interests. Sports teams, drama, chess, and debate clubs all have been positive influences on our students’ lives. Video game clubs can achieve just as positive results those groups historically have.

I have created the website as a means to help anyone who is interested in seeking information regarding starting their own video game club at their school. It has recommendations of successful video game clubs, helpful structural suggestions for your club, and published literature that you might be able to use to help support your argument if you’re facing stubborn administration. Also, people can use /r/videogameclubs as a way to shoot questions off me if they’re not feeling my website.

If I couldn't pick teaching science, I think my dream job would be to work for a video game company or be a consultant or something, traveling and helping interested k-12 districts and universities start these kinds of programs. It helps them recruit prospective students; but most importantly it helps their current students stay engaged with school and gives them a vector to feel like they have a community in which they belong. I really feel like I'm helping the world become a better place through these clubs. That being said, I’ve no idea how to pitch this job to Blizzard/EA/Riot/Nintendo/etc., hah!

Special thanks need to go out to /r/leagueoflegends for helping me get the attention of Riot Games back in 2014. They flew out to my club in Des Moines to make a video feature about the League club I had there. That video can be found here: . I didn’t know what I was doing was so valued by parents and students at the time. Shortly after that video came out, I decided to pursue this as a PhD topic. 3 years later I’m about to defend my dissertation, and I’m here to help anyone else start their own club through the resources I’ve found helpful.


Edit 1: I'll be back in 2 hours to start answering questions.

Edit 2: Forgot to plug my recent video about the club in Detroit: . Keep sending the great questions everyone!! I'll be up for a few more hours!

Edit 3: Alrighty everyone, I'm heading to bed. Please feel free to post questions here still and I'll get to them in the morning.


Bravo!! I wish a video game club existed at my school in the 90's.

I have a few questions.

Have you had any communication with university gaming clubs like the one at Robert Morse? On top of your club being an excellent way to teach students how to socially grow, I imagine it can evolve into a feeder program for future university gaming teams.

Do you teach students how to effectively control their emotions related to playing video games? I know lots of people (manly guys) who regularly have emotional outbursts when they lose during game play.

Thanks for your answers and good like with your dissertation defense!


First question - I'm involved with Colorado State University's e-sports club. My brother started the Arizona State League of Legends club, oh, probably 4-5 years ago at this point, with my guidance. That being said, I haven't focused too much on universities, not because I don't want to but because I'm simply maxed out right now teaching full time/doing my dissertation/running my own club/being a husband. I'd love to get in touch with more universities though! I'm just not sure how to do that.

2nd question - Regulation of their emotions, yes yes yes. We talk all the time about doing this in the club. It's actually not as hard as you might imagine. Once the culture is set in the club that we don't allow people to be mean to each other, it usually polices itself. If a student is a jerk, their peers will come down on them without my intervention usually. If they want to be back in the club, they'll have to change their ways. I give a speech during each meeting talking about controlling your own behavior, and being accountable to yourself. Also, I think playing a game with someone right next to you is significantly different than playing against someone online. The anonymity of it online brings out the worst in people. When you're right next to the person, it is actually much more natural to be nice. :-)


Do you have any recipe to make scrambled eggs?


It's really important to scramble the eggs while they're on heat, not before you add them to the pan. Too many people make this mistake.


What an awesome idea!

How are you measuring engagement? Does your PhD fall under the category of social sciences?


Oh boy! I could write a whole dissertation on this one. :-P

To boil it down to the bare basics, student engagement has many branches that are measure differently. For my dissertation I'm focusing on what's called affective and behavioral engagement. Affective being how students feel about their relationships with school/their peers/their teachers/if they think they can succeed/etc. Behavioral engagement is measured in several different styles, sometimes looking at students' attendance, how much time they're working on homework, how much time they're working on stuff in school, how often they practice positive behaviors or how often they behave in negative ways...things like that.

Both affective and behavioral engagement of students is tied to students succeeding more, academically, in schooling.

Hopefully that answers your question!


That's awesome, thank you. I'm interested in the influence of video games on mental health, and am chewing over the possible ways of measuring such an effect, so this is really interesting to read. If you're willing to share, I'd be really interested in reading your dissertation when you're done. Good luck with the dissertation defence!


For sure! PM me in like November. Should be good to go by then.


Public school teacher here (Math and Computer Science); A co-worker and I have been running Game Club at our school for the past 4 years. We have a mix of special needs and mainstream students all gaming together on a WiiU, Switch, PS4 and whatever the kids bring. Last year a guy brought a table-top Star Wars game and there's word of a D&D table game starting up next week.

Need any help? :)


You in the Detroit area?


Chicago suburbs.


Dang, wish we could've collaborated on some kind of cross-VGC project! That would've been fun. If I'm in the Chicago area any time in the next few months, mind if I PM you and come check out what you've got going on?


This is brilliant. I would gladly do this in my community for not even minimum wage... for a stipend. As a past educator who's run after school writing clubs, I can only imagine how successful (and community building) a video game club could be.

Out of curiosity, do you ever include any kind of metacognitive or social exercises with the students alongside the games?

Good work!


Good question! I do not do those at this time, but your question has made me think about some small things I could include. :-)


Do you work with your students on designing or coding games, or is the club focused solely on playing them?


Our computer science teacher is pulling students interested in coding aside and working with them through his expertise. Personally, I cannot code worth a darn. I've tried three times in my life to teach myself, and I just cannot do it! My mind doesn't work well with it, yet. Perhaps I'll be up for a 4th try after I defend.


There is a significant negative stigma to gamers, despite the massive number of people that own consoles or play on pc. At my school, theres no way we could get anywhere near that many kids to come in, and theres ~2000 students in my school, due to that negative stereotype about gamers. How did you overcome that issue and get kids to come in numbers more than a few at a time?

Edit: Also I would definitely attend a club like this, but unfortunately a lot of gamers prove the negative stereotype and are severe introverts and are very socially awkward, which probably prevents a lot more of these clubs from forming. Do you do anything to help kids come out of their shell and go and become socially active and physically active people, which is very important for someone's wellbeing?


I think you'd be surprised at just how non-existent that sigma actually is. What you perceive as a sigma might wither away when kids on the football team come in to play video games, or kids in theatre come in, or the basketball team comes in to play 2k; all of a sudden people just stop caring about which group of people you hang out with. It's just a matter of getting the kids to just come in.



O: Sorta up my alley.

What was your undergrad in and did you poke around doing video game related during your undergrad?

I'm SERIOUSLY excited about this. I finished my BA in Psych back in December and a friend and I did "video game" research during our research methods class. It was basically a self-report survey type asking if the types/genres games you play affect how you perceive social support. I really want to do more of that kind of research but I don't know how to do it really. I am considering getting a masters but still unsure if I want to continue psych (and what field).


My undergrad is in astronomy from the University of Colorado.

Congrats on the completion of your degree! If you're passionate about studying this more, all I can give is encouragement!


Do you have any grade requirements?


What I've found is that most of the time the students, or their parents, will place the grade requirement upon themselves to be able to participate in the club. When I started the research process, I would've put money down that one key component to get better results from children is to have a grade requirement, but from my research I've realized that that probably isn't true. It ends up being more important to give the children a community of peers and a supportive place to explore themselves, than to be pounding grades into their minds the whole time. One thing about giving the kids a community of their peers, is that those peers often are doing well in school, and being friends with those kids helps the others put in the work towards school.


Have you heard about Telsa Uni? It's a program sponsored by Blizzard.

I am a college student who is going into computer science so I can work on video games since its something I really do enjoy! What advice do you have for me to be more involved for a community gaming club?


I have not heard about it! But now you've interested me and I'm going to go check it out!

About your next question regarding advice - I'm not exactly sure of what your question is getting at. Could you reword it and I'll try to answer it? If you're just asking what can you do to be involved in a community gaming club, my response would be to take the risk and just go up to any gaming clubs you come across. Sometimes you'll connect with the people in them, and sometimes you wont. The only way to find out if you might fit with them is to try. Hopefully this is what you were asking, but feel free to be more specific and I'll dive deeper into it with you!