Most students, Madden says, play on HP EliteBook 850 notebooks that the district had already purchased, and connect via existing Cisco 802.11ac wireless access points. The district purchased nearly 150 game licenses at around $20 apiece, but some students use their own licenses so they can continue building up their individual player ratings.
The esports program at Oswego East High School in Illinois is in its fourth year, and last year the team won a state championship. The district has whitelisted video games on district computers (after-school hours only), and students play on Dell OptiPlex 7020 desktop computers connected to Ethernet.
“The first year, it was pretty much flying by the seat of my pants,” says Amy Whitlock, a French teacher and gaming enthusiast who serves as the team’s faculty adviser. Over time, the school’s “Overwatch” and “League of Legends” teams have grown to around 35 students, making esports one of the most popular extracurricular activities at Oswego East. “They have jerseys, they bring in their gear — they’re super-serious,” says Whitlock.
Esports in Academics Creates Constructive Student Connections
By bringing gamers out of their bedrooms and into after-school clubs, educators say, they’re able to promote a collaborative environment. “It’s all about creativity and collaboration,” says Ron Pirayoff, director of secondary education for Saddleback Valley USD. “Those are tenets that we’re trying to support every day in all of our subject areas. I look at esports as a vehicle for engaging kids. It’s really been a way for us to reach a different population.”
Fresno USD’s Duncan High doesn’t have traditional sports, but the esports program allows students to represent their school and compete against their peers across the city. “We won our scrimmage against one of the biggest schools in Fresno, and our students were just on fire,” says Uvaldo Garcia, a history teacher at the school and the esports club adviser.
Garcia says the club helps build social skills, especially for kids who feel left out. “This is a good place for students who won’t fit in on a lacrosse or football team,” he says. “I’m excited to have students who maybe wouldn’t fit in anywhere else, and they come here and find what they’re looking for. I was never the athletic type myself. For me, it just seems natural to have students come in and do what they love doing.”
“I think it did provide a way for students who normally aren’t involved to be proud of what they’re contributing,” says Whitlock. “We’ve had a lot of success. They like to win, and they like to be acknowledged for the trophies that they’ve brought to the school.”