CAPE ELIZABETH — Competitive video gaming, or esports, is becoming more popular among younger generations, and high schools across the state are looking to get involved, including Cape Elizabeth High School.

The school and town network and computer assistance administrator, Jason Lund, said that he has started a competitive team with five students last fall, and he hopes to start a booster club in the fall to help expand the program.

Lund said that he had been familiar with esports and gaming, but after watching a presentation from the Maine Principals’ Association last spring, he saw the potential for a league in the high school level.

The MPA, according to its website is a “private, educational, nonprofit corporation with voluntary membership that is comprised of two distinct divisions: Division of Professional Activities (building administrators) and the Division of Interscholastic Activities (member high schools).”

“A lot of the information just showed that (esports) was a growing industry — that a lot of people might see as just a hobby, but there’s a lot of jobs out there just in this one industry, and that presentation alone is showing that colleges are now offering this, offering scholarships, offering study in theses programs or are just starting to create that,” said Lund. “It opened my eyes a bit and made me realize we need to start thinking about this more and start growing it.”

The MPA partners with PlayVS, an esports infrastructure, that allows high schools to compete with one another, said Lund.

PlayVS would handle the details of the competitions, he said, like the teams and score-keeping.

Last Fall, the CEHS esports team, consisting of four seniors and one freshman, played League of Legends, a multiplayer online battle game that most high school students are familiar with, said Lund. There are four other popular esports games: Overwatch, Counter Strike: Global Offense, Super Smash Brothers, and Rocket League, all involving online competition or fighting.

“With Play Vs, you have two weeks of preseason, and then you’re usually scheduled for two or three weeks for your first competitions,” said Lund. “After you’ve played those things, you are assigned the next two or three weeks. They try to get the top teams playing each other, middle teams playing each other, and then lower teams. Then a final two weeks for a total of eight weeks of competition.”

Lund said that there is a fall and spring season each year. For the fall of 2019, the students helped build some of the computers that the club used to compete.

“This past fall we were able to get some parts for some machines for competitions, and I had the students come in and assemble the machines as a project,” he said. “A lot of them were excited about this because they wanted to build their own machines at home, so it gave them some experience to do that. It turned out to be a really great project.”

A benefit to esports is that it’s another opportunity for students to become involved in school activities, said Lund, as video games reach a broad group of teenagers.

“If I asked my student population, ‘How many of you are football players?’ you’d definitely get the football team and maybe a couple of other extra people here and there,” Lund said. “If I asked my student population, ‘How many of you are video gamers?’ you’re gonna get a large amount, but not all of them want to play it on a competitive level. Some people just enjoy it as a hobby, just like any game. What’s nice about esports is that I’m getting students from a wide variety of different cliques, different years, different parts of the student population.

“There are students who excel at academics who want to be a part of this; there are students who struggle with academics who want to be a part of this. I think esports is finding niches for students who have struggled trying to find something in more traditional activities and sports, but there are some students very much involved in those activities that still want to be a part of this. It just opens up another opportunity for students who are trying to find something that they enjoy.”

In a presentation to the Cape Elizabeth School Board, Lund said that video games interest both boys and girls at almost an equal level, so a esports league would bring a co-ed activity to CEHS.

Lund said the school’s administrators have all been supportive, and CEHS Vice Principal Nate Carpenter has been searching for students who would be interested in joining the league.

The current goal is to get enough support for a boosters program, said Lund. A few parents have already reached out to him.

“I think eSports is going to have some growing pains for the next couple of years,” he said. “It’s very new in the state of Maine. A lot of people are still trying to figure out how to get this off the launch pad but I think it’s going to be an exciting time for everyone trying to figure this out. I’m also excited because I see this as a sport that can be observed by others. We’re trying to do streaming through the local cable access channel: CETV, live stream it from that channel.”

Anyone interested in learning more about the boosters or esports can email Lund at [email protected]

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