The numbers surrounding video gaming and Esports are very eye-raising as they become more and more popular. Video games were once just a form of entertainment and they have now evolved into such a worldwide phenomenon that is bringing in billions of dollars of revenue a year, and that’s just off the game playing and Esports alone! And since 2018, the growth of Esports has even found its way into the realm of competitive high school sports.
The odds of your local high school having an Esports club or an Esports team is probably much better than your March Madness odds. But how and why did high schools get into Esports? And what does Esports look like at the high school level? Let’s dig in and find out.
Roots in Student Interest
The growth of Esports in high schools across the country should really come at no surprise. Studies have shown that almost 90% of teens in the United States play video games with some regularity. And clubs surrounding video games have been around for years as just a general interest. But with the growth of the Esports industry and the ability for even teen players to stream their gameplay and earn money while doing so, would ultimately push for there to be a more competitive niche in the Esports world.
And as the video game industry, which once was very specialized to programmers and other small niche jobs has exploded worldwide into developers, programmers, test players, and much more. These skills are now being taught in high schools and colleges across the world. Parents who once said that video games were a waste of time and led nowhere are now eating their words, as income streams for gaming and Esports have grown exponentially over recent years.
In 2018, the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) first listed Esports as an official high school sport with now over 8,600 high school Esport programs. Much of this has stemmed from interests at the teen level, but also by the growth and popularity of college Esports teams with the availability of sports scholarships. In 2020 alone, over $16 million in esports scholarships were given out to student-athletes.
Like Any Other Sport
Esports isn’t that much different than any other stick and ball sport when it comes to high school athletics. Esports have a function and a goal that players from each side try to attain while competing amongst one another. Teams are formed from the student body of the high school and practice regularly to hone their skills and strategies.
There are numerous different games that are involved in Esports and players often classify themselves as an expert or master in one of those games. During practice, players will work on strategies, fundamentals of gameplay, and functions of teamwork as they continue to round out their skills. This is no different than any other sport like baseball, football, or basketball, except this sport takes place in front of a screen with a controller or keyboard.
Practicing and forming strategies with teammates comes at a premium during competition gameplay. Esports teams practice daily after school to hone their skills before local and regional competitions. These eventually lead to larger state-sanctioned events that are just as big as any other sports state championship tournaments.
Hurdles For High School Esports
Even with popularity in participation in Esports at the high school level being high, not much else is high when it comes to the game. Fan support is low, much lower than traditional high school sports. There is the stigma of esports being considered in the nerdy genre of activities, which is truly unfair with the level of skill and talents that these players bring to the screen. But esports is still relatively new and will continue to garner fan support as it continues to grow.
Funding is probably the biggest hurdle when it comes to high school esports. Many upstart teams are using the consoles, computers, and games of the players that are participating. But some schools are managing to fundraise and get help from booster clubs to buy computers, gaming consoles, and other equipment. These things are not cheap and technology continues to evolve rapidly, which could ultimately slow the growth of esports, especially in smaller schools. But where there is a will, there is a way that schools and players will make esports happen.
So keep a lookout for an esports team at local high schools near you and consider supporting them in any way that you can. Happy gaming!