PITTSBURG — Video game competitions, called Esports, are a growing activity in schools across the nation.
Going on for the second semester, Pittsburg Community Middle School students have their own Dragon Esports team and the district recently recruited a high school team. The students have already competed against other schools all across the United States.
In Esports (also known as electronic sports, e-sports, or eSports), people play a game using teamwork and collaboration during a live video. One part of the team plays the game and shoutcasters watch their team in a soundproof room with monitors and recording equipment to commentate about the plays in the game.
Just like any other sport the students should be in good academic standing and must go to try outs during Gamers Club in order to join what they call the Rocket League team. Rocket League is the game they play, a game where they basically play soccer with cars online. The students can even get scholarships for college.
Although some might raise a brow to video games as a sport it is an educational experience, supporters say, and has been sanctioned as a sport across the U.S. and other countries.
“You wouldn’t tell a kid that basketball or art is a waste of time, so you wouldn’t tell kids video games are a waste of time because that’s where they are at and that’s where they are most comfortable and so we want to take that and put it in an educational setting so that we can provide organization and structure in a safe, online environment,” said Joe Hugo, PCMS teacher and a general manager for the team.
The students are not just playing video games. They are learning key principles as with any other sport, “teamwork, respect for each other, how to collaborate, leadership, communication is a huge one,” said Jamie Howard, one of the general managers for the team. “It also gives the school district an opportunity to reach students who normally would not be reached by athletic styled activities.”
The students start by learning about digital citizenship, then the do drills and scrimmages and then they review their film like traditional sports teams do, Hugo said.
PCMS Dragons vs Greensburg JH Pirates Match 2 from Pittsburg Community Schools on Vimeo.
Having an opportunity to be part of a group that included technology prompted seventh grade student Kenny Patel to join the team.
“I feel like it’s a great way to interact with others and make the game more fun and learn a bit more about what’s going to happen,” he said. “I learn how to speak to people that I don’t see because I’m commentating on the game and learning keywords to use when a game is going on. I feel like it was a great way to get together and do the things that I love to do without being alone at home.”
His teammate Caroline Sharbutt, also in seventh grade, agreed.
“I just really like video games,” she said. “I thought it’d be really cool to play competitively.”
People can keep up with tournaments by following the USD 250 Dragons Esports team on Twitter at 250Esports. They will soon be doing an “April Madness” tournament starting in April and continuing through the end of May.