How many kids are tired of hearing their parents, teachers or others nag them about getting off the Xbox or PlayStation and doing something productive? With the progress of eSports and eSports teams, there is a good response to the nagging: “I am doing something productive.”
With the growth of eSports in recent years, colleges and high schools have added the opportunity for students to participate in eSports competitions as part of a team competing against other schools’ teams.
Cambridge High School is launching a club team while, locally, Muskingum University has an eSports team on campus. In fact, one Cambridge High School senior, Bryce Ceculski, has already been offered scholarship money to join the Muskies’ eSports team next year.
So, while some students, in the past, have actually flunked out of college because they spent more time playing video games than studying, students now have to opportunity to earn scholarships based on their gaming ability.
Ceculski was the driving force behind starting the eSports club at Cambridge High School and the real selling point to the school administration was the scholarship money.
“I did a presentation for the administration to show them the benefits of eSports,” Ceculski said. “I did research and shared how much money a person can make participating in eSports and how a club can benefit students, especially students who are not athletically gifted or don’t like regular sports.”
According to Ceculski, the biggest selling points were scholarship money for college and more opportunity for students to get involved in activities.
The club also needed an advisor and Ceculski reached out to Zachary Boyd, an intervention specialist at CHS, who now serves at the eSports Club advisor.
Boyd has been gaming his entire life starting with an Atari before moving to a Nintendo game station during his formative years.
“I grew up playing Atari football, excite bike, Metroid…and of course Super Mario Bros, there were so many great games,” Boyd said.
“The club is great for kids who are not athletic, maybe don’t love socialization as much or are not interested in traditional sports, but it’s open to everyone” Boyd continued. “A lot of kids love video games and instead of going home and playing by themselves, they can learn what it means to be part of a school-oriented team.”
The eSports Club at CHS got started early last school year. Boyd and some of the participants brought some TVs and consoles to set up a gaming space and then started getting together and playing video games.
“We are hopeful there might be some grant money to fund an eSports program,” Boyd said. “Another local school has an eSports program that was fully funded through the 21st Century Grant for after-school programs.”
Cambridge is in the process of starting an afterschool eSports Club at the Middle School that could utilize 21st Century Grant money that is available for the Middle School Afterschool program.
A club at the Middle School may help the eSports program grow at the High School too, although, growth of eSports does not really need help right now. eSports are growing in popularity worldwide.
“It’s growing at a very rapid pace. It has grown so much in the last 10 years,” Boyd said. “Celebrities and professional sports players have invested money into eSports teams.”
The ability to play online against other people also has increased popularity. Gamers can play with and against people all over the world. Because of the competitive nature of the games, people started creating rankings of gamers. Technology advances also means people can watch others compete in video games. And because there is an audience, they now sell advertising within the games that can fund eSports.
“I can see this becoming bigger than the NBA and other pro sports because of the sponsors and sponsorship money,” Ceculski said.
He is probably right.
“In 2019, at the Fortnite World Cup Tournament held in Arthur Ashe stadium in NYC, there was more than $30 million in prizes,” Boyd explained. “A 16-year-old won the tournament and $3 million in prize money.
“There is a lot of advertising in eSports at the moment,” Boyd continued. “Universities are realizing if they can get the best players to sign with them and compete at the highest level, these kids can go pro in a path similar to that of professional sports.”
Some of the members of the Cambridge eSports team were able to win prize money in a recent competition and most colleges are offering scholarship money to play on collegiate eSports teams.
Ceculski was offered scholarship money to play at Muskingum and was also recruited by a few other colleges.
“The coach (at Muskingum) heard about me,” Ceculski said. “I applied for eSports along with my application to college. I guess he saw that, and he came to me and told me about the team. He was interested in knowing how long I have been gaming and what competitions I have been involved in.”
Growth continues at the high school level as well. The CHS team joined a league this year, the Southeastern Ohio eSports League. A student at Marietta High School reached out to Boyd and invited Cambridge to participate in the league.
According to Boyd, they did a short season in the fall to see if it would work. Cambridge had close to 30 students participate including a handful of eighth grade students from the Middle School.
The league is starting their second season this spring and hoping to add more teams to the five that already are on board.
The participants compete in popular games such as Fortnite, Rocket League, Super Smash Brothers Ultimate, Overwatch, and League of Legends. According to Boyd, Call of Duty will not be a high school eSports game because of the intense graphics and a PEGI 18+ rating.
Sometimes sports games such as Madden and NBA2K are part of eSports leagues. Boyd hopes with enough popularity that these games could be added to the CHS eSports club.
While most people who play games do not spend time practicing or preparing, that is something that Ceculski and Boyd take seriously.
Ceculski uses an app called Aim Lab which provides drills that will improve his hand-eye coordination.
“The app tests your hand-eye coordination and times how long you take to complete a drill so you can see if you do better or worse,” Ceculski said. “If you want to get better at the games, it helps a lot.”
Boyd is hopeful, when the COVID Pandemic is less of a threat, that he can get the club together to an eSports lab to analyze previous competitions and talk strategies with the players so they can figure out how to do better.
And the best part for Ceculski is that his parents understand that gaming is something that is enjoyed and productive.
“My parents don’t bother me, they are happy for me and for my success,” Ceculski said. “They watch my games that I stream on Twitch. They don’t know how I am doing what I am doing but they like it.”
Note: Some of the matches this spring will be streamed on Twitch. Follow the team on Twitter @CHSeSports4 to get more information.