Virtual Playground

Virtual Playground
Posted on 01/15/2021
BSSD student on the eSports team participates in an online gameTeamwork and collaboration come in all forms this school year. Be it in person or virtually, classrooms and even sports have adapted to change. One activity that has not experienced much change is eSports. ESports describes the world of competitive, organized video gaming. Competitors from different leagues or teams face off in the same games that are popular with at-home gamers; Super Smash Bros., League of Legends, Overwatch and Rocket League. These gamers are watched and followed by millions of fans all over the world, who attend live events or tune in on TV or online. Streaming services like Twitch allow viewers to watch as their favorite gamers play in real time, and this is typically where popular gamers build up their fandoms.

Blue Springs High School currently offers an eSports program, where students compete against other schools in different video games. High school eSports programs transform what is often an isolating activity into a social experience.

Kevin Clevenger, computer science and Project Lead the Way instructor at Blue Springs High School, is the Wildcats eSports coach and the team has been competing since last year. Blue Springs South High School currently has an eSports club taught by Blue Springs High School Freshman Campus Animation and Video Game Design instructor Andrew Enlow, and will begin competition in the spring. Clevenger said eSports is not about just video games or competition – it also involves many life skills. “ESports helps teach students to communicate with each other effectively and work as a team to solve problems,” he said. “They have to think quickly and adapt to the situations they run into. They learn to plan and test their plan to see if it will work. If that plan doesn’t work the first time, they have to tweak that plan or develop a new plan in a short amount of time.”

The students who have joined the BSSD eSports teams also come from a varied classroom backgrounds. Clevenger said the team includes students in grades 9-12. Some are Career and Technology Center students, others involved in computer science, and others in industrial arts. ESports pulls in students from all backgrounds, but also promotes togetherness and team building.

“It provides students with a sense of belonging,” Clevenger said. “eSports get non-traditional students involved in the school that generally may come to school and go home. I have seen these kids take pride in themselves and in the fact that they are representing the school.”

The BSHS team has ordered jerseys and has a Twitter account to promote matches and results. The Missouri High School eSports Association began last fall and had competition last spring before having to shut down due to COVID-19. This fall, some schools are competing at school and some are having students compete from home. The BSHS team is currently competing virtually but hopes to be competing from school in the spring.

Wildcats sophomore team member Ashton Watson said he is excited about the future of the program and eSports in general. “I wasn’t going into this thinking I would be so involved in the club but what happened was I found a community where I can share my passion about gaming and do well,” he said. “I really think this club has the opportunity to win tournaments and grow into something much larger.”

As eSports continues to grow at the college level there are opportunities for students to earn scholarships in many different areas. Some past BSSD graduates are playing on college eSports teams. For BSHS graduate and current University of Missouri-Columbia Rocket League varsity eSports team member Christian VanMeter, the growth of the program and opportunities available are limitless. “I believe that eSports is growing rapidly every year and eSports will join the stage with the more traditional sports” he said. “While I was in high school, BSHS didn’t have their eSports team yet, but I still played Rocket League. I believe eSports can set you up for some careers after school whether that be within the school or somewhere else. For eSports, I believe that connections are a huge thing and that connecting with and knowing a lot of people in the community can help you to find a career that you may be interested in.”