By: Jeffrey Xiang — Editor-in-Chief
Sharon High School’s eSports team will be competing this spring season against teams from across the state and along the East Coast.
The season starts on March 1 and will run for 10 weeks total. As of now, Sharon has teams competing in titles such as League of Legends, Fortnite, Super Smash Bros Ultimate, Rocket League, and Valorant.
Given the variance in games played, there are many differences at the competitions the team attends, says team coach Peter Buckley. “Several of the games (League of Legends, Rocket league, and Smash Ultimate) have been sanctioned by the NFHS and MSAA to be viable as Varsity sports culminating in an official state title. Competing in these leagues will pit Sharon against the top high schools in Massachusetts,” said Buckley.
“As of today there are over 60 high schools across the state registered to compete,” he added.
Buckley says that there are also opportunities for game titles not sanctioned as Varsity sports. “For some of the other titles, students will also compete in a larger Eastern Regional league. The competition will be greater as there are currently over 200 HS on the east coast registered in these leagues at the moment,” he said.
As for the competitions themselves, Buckley says that each game has different formats, such as the best-of-5 format for Rocket League and the 2-match format for League of Legends.
He also adds that the schedules are not set before the season. “The scheduling is done using a Swiss format, which will adjust each week based on your performances. The best teams will play each other while bottom bracket teams will play each other, this ensures fair competition throughout the season,” Buckley said.
As with all other events, the competitions have gone remote and the eSports team has also had to make adjustments due to the pandemic. Although, as team captain Nathan Coplan says, the transition to a remote environment has been easy given that the team is already used to gaming at home and has even made it easier for many gamers, who are now competing on their familiar home setups.
When describing his experience with those competitions, Coplan says that they have been exciting but scary at the same time. “They are way more hectic than regular matches. There is screaming, celebrating, anger and silence. Gaming isn’t perfect but success can’t always come easy. You never know what your next loss means for your progress. It’s very similar to sports games. Play your hardest but most importantly have fun,” he said.
Team captain Albert Kim agrees that competitions are much more intense than normal matches. “From my experience last year, the competitions have a great balance between competitiveness and fun. For League of Legends, a team-based game, the experience is much different from playing casually with friends as there is more game planning, strategy, and communication,” said Kim.
“There is also an aspect of representing Sharon High School and competing against other schools that makes the experience more competitive and exciting,” he added.
Senior Jason Xiong says that he enjoys both competitive and casual gaming. He adds that gaming is a good way for him to relieve stress. “I have a lot of fun gaming casually with my friends since everything is really chill, and my friends and I use gaming as a way to relax with each other in our busy lives,” Xiong said.
Overall, the growth in competitions for high school eSports mirrors the growing popularity of eSports in general.
Buckley says that eSports have already proven to be quite popular globally and are on track to continue its growth as one of the most popular activities/sports in America. “While there will continue to be many detractors that wish to only focus on the very few negatives of eSports and video games in general, it is important to highlight the numerous positives as well, which in my opinion far outweigh any negatives. Long story short, eSports is here to stay and will continue to grow,” he said.
“I will continue to support and advocate for it because I personally believe in the benefits it provides to Sharon Students,” Buckley added.
Kim agrees that eSports are already popular globally. “To put the popularity of eSports in perspective with traditional sports, the League of Legends World Championships have had more or similar viewership to the Super Bowl for the past few years, at around 100 million unique viewers,” he said.
Coplan adds that eSports are not exactly what many perceive them to be. “It’s very easy to deny that it’s not a sport but if you look into pro teams, they have rigorous practice and training. It might not be as physically demanding as other sports, but it’s very ‘mind’ focused. eSports is the future of sports,” he said.
Kim says that eSports players do have physical demands. “Most pro League of Legend players can reach 300-450 actions per minute (APM) which is a measure of dexterity and mechanical skill. The high stress and usage of fingers and hands can lead to injuries such as Carpal tunnel and Tennis elbow,” he said.
“Even the U.S. government recognizes eSports players as athletes, so it’s time for everyone to change their definition of sports because eSports is taking over,” Kim added.
“I’m very excited that eSports has been recognized as an official sport. Especially now that it’s part of the athletic department at school. I’m so glad that I started this club to help promote the idea that video games aren’t just a lazy chill thing to do after school. If you put your mind to it, it can really be as competitive and demanding as any other sport,” Coplan added.
SHS students are welcome to contact team coach Peter Buckley or any of the captains (Albert Kim, Nathan Coplan, and Sam Finklestein) if interested. Additionally, there is a Discord server available to all students, which offers the opportunity to connect with other SHS students that enjoy both casual and competitive gaming.