LITTLE ROCK (KATV) — The world of competitive gaming, known as Esports, has evolved its way into high schools across the Natural State.
Esports stands as an ever-growing global industry projected to be worth $1 billion in 2019, according to Esports analytics group Newzoo.
This is a dream-turned reality for one Lake Hamilton High School senior.
“I've been playing since middle school so whenever the opportunity came up to play again my love competitively, I was like, this should be easy,” said Steven Tyler Turner.
The Arkansas Activities Association partnered up with PlayVS, a California-based Esports league that focuses solely on high schools.
PlayVS has coordinated with the National Federation of State High School Associations to to write rules for high school play.
High schools in more than 12 states are affiliated with PlayVS.
Students must meet certain academic standards in order to participate as is the case for students wanting to play sports such as football, baseball or basketball.
More than 80 schools in Arkansas have signed up for eSports, which offers competition in the spring and fall semesters.
The games offered are Smite, League of Legends and Rocket League.
Turner's specialty is League of Legends.
“It really forces you to learn how to cooperate with people and League of Legends is known for people getting really mad or tilted,” Turner said.
The AAA's first and foremost goal is to boost student participation, especially by attracting those who aren't involved in any extracurricular activities.
Derek Walter, AAA assistant executive director, stressed the importance of students learning a variety of life skills while playing video games competitively.
“How can we get them to participate with a team? A teacher coach that will teach them life lessons to teach them how to lose. That's a huge thing in life,” Walter said.
Walter admits he's a bit surprised at the positive reception from school administrators, seeing how video games carries a stigma when it comes to correlating gaming with physical exercise.
“We thought we'd have a lot of negative comments regarding the physical aspect of it but really, we still want those kids to do those extracurricular activities where they're physically active so we're really not trying to take away from that,” Walter said.
Logan Horton serves as AP World History teacher and Esports coach at Lake Hamilton High School. Horton is adamant when it comes to the benefits of team-based video game competition.
“In the last few years, we've seen this really big emphasis on STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) so I can show and encourage these parents Esports will involve them in teamwork and communication and critical thinking skills. All these things that we're trying to teach students in school anyway,” Horton said.
While focused mainly on academics and school bond, Turner knows there's great potential for Esports to take off in Arkansas.
From the potential of receiving scholarships for Esports simply earning bragging rights in the state championship , Turner is ready to drum up competition.
“It's really fun to be able to play a game and to know you're able to do it for a cause greater than doing it for enjoyment. I think it's just inspiring to just be a part of this blowup,” Turner said.
According to PlayVS, 200 colleges and universities in North America provide scholarships related to Esports.
Henderson State University is the first college in Arkansas to have an official eSports team and offer scholarships for competitive gaming.
To learn more about AAA's role in the Esports program, click here.
To learn more about PlayVS, click here.
by Zack Briggs Sunday, February 17th. 2019