Two new programs are organising high school esports into varsity leagues giving everyone an opportunity to compete.
Parents often complain about their teens spending too much time playing video games. But esports have been rapidly moving into the mainstream. More than 200 colleges in the US and Canada already recruit for esports scholarship. Additionally, there are also esport clubs in many high schools. Traditional high school varsity sports require a lot of infrastructure, from setting official rules to organising districts, conferences and state playoff tournaments. Esports present additional challenges, as they require more technical infrastructure than established sports. Now, two new organisations are working to create this.
Last year, the High School Sports League (HSEL) organised a nationwide high school varsity esports league. The program partners with high schools to offer league play and tournaments with prizes that include university scholarships. Now, Los Angeles-based PlayVS is hoping to create a national governing body for high school esports. PlayVS has signed a contract with the National Federation of State High School Associations to build the infrastructure for high school esports.
The PlayVS league will have two seasons each year, with teams logging on to the PlayVS website to see their schedule, check the leaderboards and play their matches. There will be eight season matches played online, and LAN tournaments in front of a live audience. Both organisations say that legitimising esports through leagues helps to turn video gaming into a social event. This also allows students to play on-campus surrounded by their friends. Esports leagues also offer the advantages of being co-ed and allowing an unlimted number of teams at the varsity level – giving everyone an opportunity to compete. PlayVS and the HSEL are not the only ones to realise the that esports have a bright future. We have also recently seen gaming innovations such as a Formula 1 sponsored esports league and 360 degree VR for gamers. Will esports someday be as popular as traditional high school sports?