Interview: Meet Todd Harris, new CEO of WWSEF

We’ll start off with the big question — What do you see in NASEF that made you want to get involved?

I was drawn to NASEF’s mission of connecting play and learning.

Have you had an opportunity to make that connection with your previous work?

Yeah, I would say it goes back to my own first connection with video games. When I was young, I had a couple of formative experiences with video games. My first gaming experience was playing Pong with my father at home. Later, even before arcades, when the first Space Invaders came out the Pizza Hut in my neighborhood had one. I remember playing Space Invaders with him. So from the very beginning, I associated gaming with the social experience.

Sounds a lot like Miyamoto making baseball games on his calculator when he was growing up.

(Laughs) Pretty much. It was basic and they were pretty rudimentary games. It’s funny you mention that. I’ve seen this same basic pattern play out with others. I played games with both of my kids and they would learn programming using the block language, Scratch, but then moved to other tools. My son figured out how to make games on their scientific calculator and literally taught a high school class how to make games on the calculator. He made a really awesome tower defense game and taught others how to do the same thing.

I know you have a ton of experience in gaming, so what are some of the skills you’re going to bring to WWSEF that will help it continue to grow and expand its reach?

That’s a great question. Obviously, NASEF started with really strong educators and a research-based approach. What I will be able to bring is a lot of game industry connections. Specifically, game publishers. As everyone knows, they hold a lot of power with the IP. Because I know the publishers and understand their goals, I’ll hopefully be able to bring those relationships to NASEF, which long-term should mean more games for students to engage with.

We’ve seen how esports has changed education with NASEF so far, how do you see it changing education and our daily lives in the future?

I think that education has been doing the same thing for a long time while the world is changing around us. Clearly, Covid-19 has shaken up a lot of models; the way people think about what can be done remotely or at a distance. Or the power of something like live streaming outside of video games.

We see different education standards around the world, how is WWSEF going to tackle that challenge and bring NASEF’s mission to the world stage?

That’s a great question. My background is not education, but I know that when something works in general, it is generally adopted. And this is also a bit of a tangent from your question, but I spent the last semester in the college environment as an adjunct professor at Georgia State teaching esports with NASEF really being the foundation of the methodology. Students ended up, for their final project, fully implementing an Apex Legends tournament. They did every part of it, from promoting it to the tournament organization to the production to the shoutcasting.

Now for a few easy questions to finish out the interview: What do you love most about video games and esports?

What I love most is that it develops a growth mindset in students. Games are really good at giving you a goal and when you accomplish the goal you get a nice shiny that feels really good, and then you get a goal that is a bit harder. That feeling of deliberate practice and improving a skill, that’s a very valuable mindset. I would say it’s almost a superpower in today’s age.

NASEF is very easy to say, so how will we pronounce WWSEF?

(Laughs) I’ve heard wow-sef, but TBD on the final pronunciation. I think that will be one of the first acts we’ll put to a vote.

Final words as we begin this transition from North America to worldwide?

Really just appreciation for the Samueli’s for a bold vision and kicking this effort off and everyone involved with NASEF and their accomplishments to date. It’s very hard to go from nothing to something and the fact that NASEF exists and has this proven methodology and has touched thousands of students is something the whole team should be proud of.

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North America Scholastic Esports Federation

North America Scholastic Esports Federation

NASEF uses scholastic esports to help students enhance their education & skills for future careers!