Esports create student opportunities

Esports create student opportunities
Posted on 11/04/2020
From Amy Harris, Esports Adviser and Computer Science Teacher

November 4, 2020 - Esports is a multi-million dollar international industry in which competitive gamers play one of a growing number of titles, either individually or on teams.  Scholastic esports has taken off over the last seven years, with more and more colleges (including several right here in Missouri) offering scholarship positions on a variety of teams and behind the scenes. Naturally, high school esports is expanding as a result.

In January of 2016, an enthusiastic League of Legends (LoL) player asked whether Hart Career Center could start a competitive team. Since the computer science department was already equipped with gaming PCs to support courses in video game design, it was an easy decision to make. The team competed through High School Starleague (HSL) that season. Over the next two years, the program grew and added an Overwatch team.

In late 2018, HSL disbanded, and the teams were afraid they were left with no affordable options for competition. Fortunately, the North America Scholastic Esports Federation (NASEF) was expanding across the continent from California. Besides offering multiple titles for (free!) competition, they also offer resources and contests for those interested in the business side of esports via their website and Beyond the Game challenges. Additionally, they have a number of resources available for developing local clubs. 

In January of 2019, Bulldog Esports was officially born. That spring, one student finished in second place in one of NASEF’s Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (SSBU) tournaments, and another won a scholarship and club grant through a Beyond the Game challenge. The club also began hosting local tournaments. In January of 2020, the teams joined the newly formed Missouri High School Esports Association (MHSEA), a NASEF affiliate dedicated to providing accessible esports programs and competition for students.

This fall, Bulldog Esports is thriving with more student participation than ever. On October 24, freshman Logan Blackburn tied the school record by placing second out of 66 in his first NASEF SSBU tournament. The Overwatch team (the Mambas) and the Rocket League team (the Epic Gamers) just passed the halfway point in their competitive seasons against an all-Missouri bracket through NASEF/MHSEA. The Valorant team is preparing for their first tournament, and the LoL and Fortnite teams are practicing for their turn in the spring. The SSBU team (Side B) will also play together for the first time in the spring as they transition from singles tournaments to five-player crew battles. Side B has been proud to expand their team to the middle school this year, and their younger teammates will compete in their first crew battle in December through MHSEA and the Missouri Association of Secondary School Principals. Additionally, students are working on new logos, developing a shoutcasting team, and planning fundraisers for jerseys.

In January of 2021, Bulldog Esports will celebrate five years of teamwork. While some might find the fast-paced nature of the games stressful and hard to follow, this group thinks just the opposite.

“Esports is a time for friends to relax and play their favorite games [and] have fun,” says freshman Korbyn Smith. “Esports is a fun way to compete and not get physical,” adds Valorant captain and club vice-president William Sause. “[It’s] a great way to have fun without the pain.” 

Students who haven’t found their niche anywhere else are thriving as competitors and leaders though Bulldog Esports.

"Esports has brought out the best in me,” says junior Lynn Johnson, Mambas co-captain and Beyond the Game artist. “Teamwork and perseverance is essential for this club, and it helped me personally with social anxiety and being with others I swore I'd never be teamed up with - it's exciting and I'm glad I got the chance to be a part of it!"

Bulldog Esports offers opportunities for a wide range of students, both gamers and those interested in the business of esports marketing and broadcasting.  The team looks forward to building on these strengths for their next five years... and beyond.