High school sports ‘level up’
Pascack Valley entertains idea of esports
November 12, 2019
It’s crunch time.
The game is on the line.
Everyone is watching.
Every athlete’s dream is to have the chance to win the game for his or her team. But maybe it is not every athlete’s dream to win on the field or on the court. Some Pascack Valley students have the dream of winning the only contest that takes place on a screen: esports.
The world of sports is quickly transforming, and many esports leagues already exist. The NBA 2K League, a league in which the athletes who take part are treated just like traditional athletes, is one of these leagues. The only difference between this league and conventional leagues is that esport athletes are showing their skills on the screen while using a controller, not on the court.
Traditional sports teams are offered at almost every high school, and there is quite possibly a future where esports are offered at high schools. PV could be one of them.
There is certainly a level of student interest at PV, some students having expressed their thoughts and opinions about esports being offered, like senior Aidan Mcbride. He is no stranger to the world of competitive gaming, noting that he plays the popular Nintendo game “Super Smash Bros” competitively.
“I feel like esports should be held in the same regard as [traditional] sports,” Mcbride said. “People who play these games need the same amount of focus, the same amount of skill level and practice, and the same, if not even more talent, than [traditional] sports players.”
Mcbride makes a point that many people may not be willing to accept: esports are very similar to traditional sports. One example comes from the Call of Duty World League. In the game, players use teamwork and communication skills to form strategies to defeat their opponents. Many of these players practice for hours a day, and competitions can last for hours, similar to games or tournaments for traditional sports.
Other students who may not be extraordinarily competitive in video games have also expressed their interests in a possible esports team at PV.
“I would definitely be interested,” said junior Jack Lewis who has a strong interest in video games. “I think a lot of other people would be interested too.”
Through esports, students can learn the same social skills and cooperation that are learned through traditional sports. This is why organizations like the North America Scholastic Esports Federation want to provide esports to students. In the past, when somebody would play video games, he or she would be playing alone in front of their television screen or their monitor. Now, gamers are socializing and cooperating through voice chat as they play.
District Superintendent Erik Gundersen commented on the positive aspects of video games and esports as well.
“There is a lot of teamwork, socializing, appropriate and inappropriate behavior, and this is a way to bring that type of activity and make it more of a team-like effort and help reinforce positive behavior,” Gundersen said.
The rising level of student interest leads students to believe that there is a future where esports are put forward at PV.
“I’ve heard a bit of talk about [esports at PV],” said junior Daniel Olson who plays “Counter-Strike” and “Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege”. “It seems like something that could happen.”
Olson said that if he participated in an esports team at PV, the aforementioned games would be the games he would want to be played in a competition.
“In the future, if [esports] keep getting more popular, I think [a team at PV] is definitely possible,” Lewis said.
“I feel like there would be a huge amount of interest from students,” Mcbride added.
Recently, a skit starring Chance the Rapper was featured on Saturday Night Live, depicting the differences between esports and traditional sports.
Despite its exaggeration and its comedic nature, the skit demonstrates how unfamiliar traditional sports fans may be with esports, and the influence esports have on adolescents.
Gundersen attended a conference with other individuals to discuss innovations in education. At the conference, the NASEF showed a presentation about the value that esports presents to students. The NASEF’s mission is to provide opportunities for students to use esports to acquire skills that are valuable in life.
Gundersen said that he found the idea of offering esports to students “intriguing and inspiring” and thinks that it is something that should be looked into at PV.
Gundersen also added a suggestion for students who are interested in a possible esports team at PV.
“If students are interested and intrigued by this, then students should get together and advocate for something that they are interested in,” Gundersen said.
Despite many challenges, esports could one day exist at PV, and administrators are looking into ways to make it possible.
According to Gundersen and District Director of Technology and Communications Paul Zeller, ample planning would be necessary if Pascack Valley wants to become involved in esports as a school.
“My questions [for the NASEF] were, ‘when and how do you practice?’” Gundersen said. “Is this going to take away from the kids who are involved in traditional sports?”
Another possible obstacle that comes to mind, is what the cost would be like to set up an esports team at PV.
“From a cost perspective, right now, it looks like we’re talking about an advisorship, and it looks like maybe some fees here and there, but nothing astronomical,” Gundersen said.
Although the potential for esports at Valley is rising, there is no guarantee that esports will be offered to the students. Despite all of the potential for it at PV, bringing esports into high schools would not be simple, to say the least.
Something that may be problematic is the capability of existing devices at PV to handle gaming. New gaming devices may need to be purchased for a potential esports team.
Zeller was able to outline the technological requirements that would need to be met in order to make an esports team possible at PV.
“I believe that we have [devices capable of handling gaming] at a basic level,” Zeller said. “We plan on replacing the computers in the engineering room soon and when we replace those machines we are going to make sure that they are more than capable of handling gaming.”
Another difficulty is that it appears as if the student interest level would need to be adequate for esports to be offered at PV as a team and not as a club. It seems that the interest level at PV would be sufficient for an esports team right now, however, time will tell whether or not enough students will be interested in the future.
“If esports was a club, I wouldn’t know if we would have enough resources because anybody can join. But if it is a team with actual tryouts, yes, we would have enough resources,” Zeller said.
Due to the student interest and the increasing popularity of esports, Gundersen believes that esports could one day be offered at Pascack Valley.
Although he did not have a definitive answer on whether or not there is a future for it at PV, Gundersen sounded optimistic about the prospect of esports at Valley.
“I can’t say that this is something that we’re definitely rolling out, but we’re very interested in learning more about it to see if it’s something that we should bring to the school,” Gundersen said.