Esports and Their Rise in Popularity at North

Jei Jandura, Features Editor

Next school year, North will see the introduction of an Esports team. The team will be playing a variety of competitive online games that use a wide range of different skill sets.

“We’re looking at Mario Kart, Splatoon, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Valorant and a bunch of other different games. We’ll have different teams for each game, and we’ll be competing with other teams from around the state,” said Benjamin Wagoner, Esports coach and SCN LRC Director.

Esports club will compete under the Illinois High School Esports Association and will compete with other teams across the state. The club will also provide opportunities for people who don’t want to play in a competitive manner.

“There will be some kids who come and they just want to play games with their friends and that’s fine; we’re calling that the non-competitive group,” said Wagoner, “but the competitive side we are running just like a competitive sport.”

Aspects of this competitive side include an attendance and grade requirement, just like other sports around the school. Members will also be given jerseys and will be split into different teams depending on what game they play.

Esports also provides many opportunities for students to find skills whether it be in gaming, leading or managing servers. These skills also provide students with opportunities outside of high school.

“There are colleges that have Esports teams and people are getting full ride scholarships to go play Esports in college. Some kids are getting recruited to play Esports, some kids are getting recruited to be a coach, some are getting recruited to be like a server master because they’re really good at setting up servers and games,” said Wagoner. “There are many different roles that happen within these sports that people are able to have these opportunities in college and beyond.”

The teams will be using a system called PlayVS. Using this system allows Esports to use PlayVS’s servers just by being connected to the internet. The system also allows for practice matches in preparation for the actual matches that will occur later in the week.

“By using [PlayVS] what’ll happen is on Mondays we’ll be able to start practicing, we’ll find out who we’re going against on Wednesday, but then we can also set up scrimmages with other teams so we can practice and say ‘hey we’re going to set up a scrimmage, we’re going to do a couple rounds with you at 3:15 on Monday’ and then we’ll log in and have a scrimmage just so we can try different things and then on Wednesdays, we’ll have actual competitions,” said Wagoner.

The community around Esports has become larger and larger with Esports events even selling out stadiums as large as the AT&T Center in San Antonio Texas. North’s Esports team hopes to create a community where people can explore their passion for gaming.

“I think people have been less afraid to talk about [Esports],” said Wagoner. “There are lots of kids who love to play these games and they don’t understand that there is a community here, but they feel like they’re isolated.”