The realm of esports is a growing area of competition: gamers compete against each other in various games remotely or in-person to test skills, teamwork, and communication.
Lebanon High School held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its new esports arena Wednesday, March 4. The arena was funded by a $35,000 PAsmart grant in collaboration with the Emerald Foundation, an organization focusing on healthcare and education.
The room will give Lebanon’s esports team a place to practice and host up to four teams in competition.
“A very big part of interscholastic events is to travel to other schools or have other schools travel here,” said Christopher Forry, one of the team’s coaches. “We’re really looking forward to being able to host teams if not this year, later next year.”
Lebanon High School’s esports program was officially started last year.
Up until now, the team borrowed a regular classroom for practices. This both limited the amount the team could practice and the comfort and effectiveness of the space.
“[The esports arena] is amazing,” said club president Jey Weir. “Now since we have our own classroom, we can come any day of the week.”
Now, the team has access to an 836 square-foot room with top-notch computers, 24 ergonomic chairs, and a high-speed Internet connection thanks to a custom fiber optic cable.
“I think this grant is important because it provides equity for the students so that the students can all have the same equipment across the board,” said Brianna Titi of Emerald Foundation. “We’re just really excited to see this come to life.”
They have access to the room whenever a coach is available. The team is in the room during 6:45 a.m. practices Monday through Thursday, during activity periods, and meetings or tournament matches after school.
During these practices, teammates practice communication. The largest tournaments the team competes in are first-person shooter game Overwatch and battle-arena game League of Legends, both in teams of six.
“One of the biggest things is the idea that, traditionally, playing games is a pretty solitary event,” said coach Dan Figeuroa. “Having a team like this, you naturally bring people together, giving them a sense of ownership of that in the school.”
In addition to competing in tournaments and matches, students are also encouraged to get involved in activities such as Beyond the Game challenges where they are encouraged to experiment with game and game-related design and creation.
“We are pretty much creating culture where we merge student interest with educational priorities,” said Forry. “Students are constantly changing, and that’s why we have to make adjustments for that.
“Gaming is a big part of their lives, and finding that balance and merging it as a culture of interest, enjoyment, and education, that is huge.”
Freshmen Jeremiah Polanco, Arnaldo Borges, and Alexis Borges all are interested in designing games and are currently in various steps of the process.
When asked why they joined the esports team, Arnaldo Borges said, “For me it’s my passion of gaming and my passion of one day becoming a video game developer.”
Polanco said, “For me, it’s cooperation and playing with friends.”
Alexis Borges mentioned wanting to play more competitively in Smash Bros. and said that with esports, “Just playing Smash Bros. has brought me closer to making games than it has in the past.”
With the new esports arena, the players have a place to sharpen their skills, both in and out of the games themselves.
“It’s like any team, you get to be around people with similar interests and you get to depend on them,” said Figueroa. “That can be a vulnerable thing, to put your trust and depend in someone else, and that’s not an opportunity a lot of people get to experience weekly.”
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