Not Just Fun and Games: PSD Considers Adding Esports Program

1.14.2020 - 3:02 PM - Kaden Hartmann

Professional gaming, also known as “Esports” is one of the fastest-growing activities in the world today. One of the biggest games in esports is League of Legends. Last year, the world championships of League of Legends attracted more than 100 million viewers, and over 44 million concurrent viewers on popular live streaming websites like Twitch and Youtube. This doesn’t even account for the over 20,000 fans who packed into the AccorHotels Arena in Paris, France just to watch the event live. Many other games have also seen this kind of popularity. This past year at the world championships of the popular game Fortnite, the  winner walked away from the tournament winning over $3 million. The best part is that the winner was only sixteen years old. Forbes estimates that Esports will be a $1.5 billion market in 2020. These kinds of crazy numbers are the reason that many high schools and universities have been looking to  start up Esports programs. 

The popularity of the idea has been growing rapidly over the last few years as schools and colleges see the potential of the programs. Even colleges as close as NTC have started Esports teams.  High school Esports in Wisconsin is run by the  Wisconsin High School Esports Association (WIHSEA).  WIHSEA has been running competitive tournaments and matches since 2017, when they held their first fall state championship for the League of Legends. The team started with just 8 teams and has now increased to over 80 different schools participating. The league focuses competitive play on four main games League of Legends, Rocket League, Super Smash Bros, and Overwatch. Overwatch and Super Smash Bros are played during the fall season with their state championship games usually happening in early December while League of Legends and Rocket League are played during the spring season, with their state championship in March. Each season has a schedule that allows games to be played weekly. There are also varsity and junior varsity matches for each game which helps include more players in each matchup and allows them to compete at the appropriate skill level. 

Starting the program at Prentice High School would be somewhat of a challenge. The school would need to find funding for the equipment needed for the team, they would need to find advisors or coaches for the team, and the school athletic directors would have more work on their hands as they would be charged with scheduling. The team would need enough equipment for everyone on the team to compete in games and practice. In addition to hardware, the school would have to look into the idea of creating a Twitch channel so the games the team's matches could be streamed for fans. The good thing about finding opponents is that distance would not be a problem. As the games can all be played online from the school this would make scheduling matches easier. 

The addition of an Esports program would help to give students who don’t have an interest in the sports offered at Prentice an outlet to be included in school activities. As the popularity of Esports rises at the professional level, high schools and universities look to capitalize on the idea. As the idea of playing video games professionally has become a possibility for students, schools have been adding the programs to attract students to their schools specifically to play for their Esports teams. Colleges have also seen the rise and some have started to get programs started to attract athletes in the same way they would to recruit traditional athletes for their athletic programs. Colleges have started to even offer scholarships to athletes who focus on Esports. 

The question of if an Esports team would be successful in Prentice is an important one that should be addressed. The introduction of the program would help bring out kids who don’t play other sports but have an interest in gaming. “Opening this type of thing up to students is a smart idea. It could help to create new and long-lasting friendships,” expressed Prentice High School junior Clay Hartmann. “I do think it is important to open Esports up to schools because every student has different things they like to do, and I think it would be great,” added Prentice high school sophomore Tyler Dobson. The program could also help to bring more students into the school district through open-enrollment, as some kids would want to be a part of the program. Since there are no other programs like it in the immediate area, the start of an Esports team would have an increased interest. Some teachers have expressed good thoughts about the start of an esports team: “I think it would help to improve logic, problem solving skills, and teamwork,” expressed high school science teacher Mike Dunbar. He isn’t alone with his thoughts on the program as guidance counselor Jackie Franzoi added, “I think it would actually be pretty cool.” The start of an Esports program at Prentice High School would help to bring more diversity to what we offer here. As the interest for the sport rises in our state, the introduction of it would help to include more people in school activities and help to raise school spirit within the diverse student body. 

With the good reviews coming in about the program, the last problem would be funding. The team would need enough funding for computers and consoles that have enough power to run the games that are being played. Although finding the funding wouldn't be hard to in a school like Prentice that is so open to the idea of Esports.  Funds would be the first challenge to overcome to start the team, but once funds are found, the team could flourish.