The age of esports

New team offers students social and financial opportunities through competitive gaming

As students enter room 115, the Smartboard is lit up while two competitors battle against each other in “Super Smash Bros.” Behind the competitors are other students sitting at monitors or personal gaming devices, smiling and laughing as they wait their turn to take the controls at the front of the room.

Russell Peterson-Womack
Competitors laugh as they watch head coach Mark Snodgrass compete with a student in “Super Smash Bros.” Snodgrass lost the match.

“To me, esports is a community where people can go to have fun and compete against each other to see who is the better player,” junior Jason Black said.

As technology continues to evolve, so has competition. People are eager to dive into the world of esports, according to Miami University professor Glenn Platt. SHS is one of six high schools in Indiana that have followed the trend by deciding to bring their very own competitive esports team to the table. 

Video games were long considered a hobby or pastime, according to junior and competitor Jayden Spencer, but for some students, it has become something more. With the recent introduction of an official esports team at SHS, students are given the opportunity to discover a new pathway through life by earning scholarships and cash prizes by playing a variety of video games. 

“This is one more avenue for us to help kids,” SHS esports head coach Mark Snodgrass said. 

The idea of an esports team at SHS first came from the mind of junior Jacob Choban. Esports mainly focuses on the world of competitive online multiplayer games. Competitors, forming different teams and leagues, play games such as “Super Smash Bros.,” “Rainbow Six Siege,” “League of Legends” and “Overwatch.”

Russell Peterson-Womack
The esports team practices by playing against each other on Nov. 12. The team filled out a bracket and had their own tournament.

“I got the idea because I was playing video games with my friends, and then I realized that it would be really cool to have some sort of team where we could all play video games together,” Choban said.

According to Influencer Marketing Hub, since 2016, esports viewing numbers have increased significantly, by nearly 20%. The esports community saw another big jump in views in 2018 with the total audience growing from 335 million to 380 million. 

“(Millennials) watch more esports on a weekly basis than all traditional sports combined and is by far the sport of choice for millennials and younger,” Platt said.

Although esports is considered a sport by NCAA guidelines, college teams, such as Miami University, are not required to follow the NCAA rules for their athletes. For example, the NCAA headquarters recently made it illegal for athletes in sports to earn money from their skills or talents, but esports is not legally required to follow that rule, allowing athletes to be compensated with tournament prizes. According to Wired, over 6,000 players have accumulated $70 million in 2,000 “League of Legends” meets and tournaments.

Black says on a typical esports practice day, students come in and out of room 115 looking for matches and competition. While two main competitors play on the Smartboard, many students play in the background on their handheld devices. At the moment the athletes mainly stick to playing “Super Smash Bros.,” and they also focus on the importance of observation, taking time to observe other athletes and their playing styles.

“There are a few setups where we just play friendly matches against each other, and before tournaments, we will practice certain (techniques),” Spencer said.

Russell Peterson-Womack
Junior Ethan Henderson battles it out against a friend while sophomore Kaden Click watches over his shoulder on Nov. 12. Competitors like Henderson play on computers or other devices while waiting to use the Smartboard to compete against each other on a bigger screen.

One noticeable issue with the new team is funding, according to Snodgrass. Esports costs are mostly paid for by sponsors to provide proper infrastructure, video games, an arena and getting the sportswear. In the future, Snodgrass hopes to expand the team by building an arena next to SHS with his own wifi system that allows his team to play more than just a few games.

While practices vary from team to team, meets tend to stay consistent around the nation, with the bigger esports teams playing in arenas and in domes. For teams on the lower level, they can play from home. Since communication is a big factor for an esports team, this is not ideal because of network issues and communication problems that can occur from house to house.

“If I’m not sitting next to you, it’s a little harder for me to communicate with you,” Snodgrass said.

In Indiana, a limited amount of high schools have a competitive esports team. With the SHS team still growing and developing, it is allowing some students to use one of their hobbies as an outlet to make new friends and meet new people.

 “It’s a group of people who come together and have fun gaming,” Black said.

According to Spencer, the esports team allowed him to connect with new friends who share a common interest. He says that it allows him to use skills in video games that he has played almost his whole life.

“The community is inviting and fun, and you get to learn more about the people around you that you may not have known,” Spencer said.