Dozens of video game-savvy teens competed for sports glory in the Manitoba High School eSports Association’s Spring League of Legends Invitational on Friday.
Strategic calls and victory celebrations echoed through Louis Riel Arts & Technology Centre amid feverous keyboard strokes and mouse clicks.
The event, put on by the Manitoba High School eSports Association (MHSeA), is a League of Legends gaming tournament – a multiplayer online battle arena video game developed by Riot Games played around the world.
James Young, the MHSeA’s League of Legends convenor, describes the game as tug of war meets capture the flag.
“Each person has a different position, much like traditional athletic sports, every person has a different role and a different thing they have to accomplish, and you are playing against the other team to essentially push computer-controlled minions up to the other team’s base,” said Young.
In the tournament, 12 five-player teams from 11 different high schools are battling it out to become champions. A round-robin format started several weeks ago, with teams playing in their school’s computer lab.
For the finals, a row of computers was set up in Louis Riel Arts & Technology Centre along with play-by-play commentators, a large projector and a live stream.
“This is how they sort of do it for the professionals, so we wanted to do something like this to bring them all in the same room,” said Young.
NOT ALL FUN AND GAMES
According to Young, eSports can provide many of the same skills and lessons as regular sports.
“A lot of the students we have don’t participate in traditional athletics, so with video games, you get some of the same benefits: socialization, problem-solving and conflict resolution type stuff. That’s one of the reasons we require them to play together in school,” said Young.
Young said the in-person aspect of the tournament is a key part of teaching those lessons.
“It helps encourage that empathy and being able to realize they have that real person beside you. You got more games to play; you can’t just blow up at them.”
Young said he hopes that schools start to see the value of eSports moving forward.
“Part of our mandate is not only to try and organize the games but at a school level, to try and educate schools to see this as a positive competitive environment,” he noted.
A GROWING SPORT
Young said the tournament gains a few new teams each year, with eSport athletes now coming as far as Steinbach and Niverville.
The rise of eSports is a global movement, with a pre-pandemic tournament for League Legends filling a stadium with spectators and reaching a $6.4 million prize pool in 2018.
While the MHSeA’s tournament is much more for recreation, Young said there is room to grow in eSports.
“There are opportunities after high school,” he said. “Some U.S. colleges have teams and even offer scholarships.”
Young noted that many universities in Canada also have teams like the University of Manitoba.
The MHSeA is looking to keep the eSports momentum going by doing more in-person events in the future and trying to expand.
Young said the organization would soon be merging with another organization that runs eSports for kids in middle school.
On top of League of Legends, the organization is also hosting Super Smash Brothers, Rocket League, and Minecraft tournaments.
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