By Marty Gordon
The Virginia High School League announced earlier this year E-sports would be a one-year pilot program. One of the first “gaming” teams to step up to the plate this fall is at Blacksburg High School.
E-sports stands for Electronic Sports and requires a tremendous amount of critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity from players to achieve and sustain success. Today, an estimated 400 million fans have been selling out arenas to watch the competitions. Last month, a 16-year-old gamer won three million dollars via a tournament. Thus E-sports’ popularity is growing rapidly.
Already more than 200 colleges and universities are offering E-sports scholarships and are actively recruiting players. Both Radford University and Virginia Tech have club teams.
Through this pilot program and with the assistance of PlayVS, the E-sports platform provider, the Virginia High School League will assess the potential participation of member schools in E-sports and will provide data to the executive committee for potential sanctioning of E-sports as an official Activity for the League.
The majority of E-sports’ games are fighting games, first-person shooter, real-time strategy or multi-player battle games.
Labeling video games has been a point of debate as many people believe it will never be identified as a “true” or “real” sport. The International Olympic Committee is also watching its popularity. In 2017, the committee acknowledged the growing numbers.
The VHSL plans to have E-sports seasons in the fall and the spring. Matches are played on a weekly basis and will consist of a number of games. The top two teams will then play in a single elimination tournament until the finalists are determined. The cost per student will be $64 per game title, per season.
Billy Haun, the VHSL executive director, said since the pilot program has been approved, the feedback has been largely positive.
“The Virginia High School League is always looking to increase opportunities for students beyond the traditional activities,” he said.
Fifteen students participate in the Blacksburg High School program, which has three teams: gold, blue and white. With a small number of state schools participating, Blacksburg’s gold team is one of only three to be undefeated this season.
The BHS team is also one of the only teams with a female player, Diana Brizzolar.