Two students are getting ready to face one another in their next super smash competition taking place after school in the SAC (student activities center). The controller is connected, the countdown starts and the battle begins.
Today, the popularity of professional video gaming is sweeping the nation from the recent gaining of coverage from ESPN. This organized gaming, formerly called Esports, is competitive video gaming where players face off in tournaments. These players are the best at their game, like senior Owen Blackburne.
“[Esports are] actually very similar to sports in general,” Blackburne said. “[Esports] requires teamwork, skill and general strategic maneuvering.” These are some of the same abilities that a person would use in sports not on a screen.
There are different leagues that organize the teams for each region of the US and some include international leagues. Each league contains 10-20 teams that play 28 matches in one season, according to the ESPN Overwatch category on their Esports website.
According to Blackburne, an Esports team is made up of three people and there is a ranking system.
The Red Bull website explains that the individual ranking system has five tiers: bronze, silver, gold, platinum and diamond. Each tier has five divisions in them. When an individual wins or loses the team earns or loses League Points for the team which makeup the team rankings.
“Imagine if you were playing a sport or if you were watching a sport and you could see exactly what the other person was doing from their point of view–and that’s what you’re capable of doing with esports showing the screens and all that,” Blackburne said.
South is also following the trend and has created its own team this year. John Mulloy, an instructional assistant for special education was approached by Blackburne about creating a team. Mulloy, who has also been the sponsor of gaming club for almost seven years said he was very excited to finally have the opportunity to help start the team.
“We have been approached multiple times by students who want to do Esports and the games they want to play are not deemed school appropriate so we always had to say no. But about a month ago, I was approached by Owen who met with Koo, who told Owen, ‘Hey if this works out, maybe we can do a team this semester’. And we got it together where we have enough kids to essentially have three teams,” Mulloy said.
Mulloy also mentions that this idea of Esports becoming a real high school sport for Illinois is not a surprise due to the ISHSA (The Illinois High School Sports Association), beginning to take it into account.
“The IHSA, who mandates high school sports in Illinois, about a year ago put Esports as an emerging sport, which means at a certain point if enough schools want to do it or show interest and have club teams than they will lay down rules to be able to play these,” Mulloy said. “And so the IHSA put it out about a year ago, that it was an emerging sport and they’re convening a committee this spring to decide on rules and regulations. That usually means that sometime pretty quickly after that they will announce it as an official sport for the state of Illinois.”
What Mulloy hopes to bring to the table with the new team is that more students come forward if they are interested and use it as an outlet in place of standard sports.
“Ever since I sponsored the gaming club, there’s a huge chunk of the students where this is their outlet, and I feel like they don’t really need a physical outlet, they need a mental outlet,” Mulloy said. “So I really see it really be adjoining to theater and music, where they don’t feel like there’s this physical outlet but they have something else to do at home.”