The upcoming competition run by the Adelaide Football Club, known as the High Schools E-League (HSEL), will give Australian students the ability to play video games in a competitive environment across four states, including SA, and the Northern Territory.
The Crows, who became the first AFL team to invest in competitive gaming in May last year through their acquisition of Legacy Esports, have partnered with Bastion Live, owner of top Australian esports team Avant Gaming, to create the HSEL.
Sports have been a mainstay in school curriculums through physical education classes and inter-school competitions to encourage confidence, teamwork and leadership via healthy rivalry.
The competitive video game league extends some of those opportunities to students without the interest or ability to play traditional sports.
Not only do esports foster collaboration, but a recent study by the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology also found that students who play online video games are typically more successful in science and maths.
HSEL commissioner Woody Wu said the competition aims to “improve life skills and educational outcomes”.
“We want to give students the opportunity to get involved in their school ecosystem, represent the school, build meaningful connections and have a lot of fun,” he told InDaily.
The video game of choice for the competition will be Riot Games’ flagship title League of Legends (LoL) – the world’s most played esport with more than 100 million monthly users.
In LoL, two teams of five face off using powerful champions with specific abilities to help their team win by destroying their enemy’s base. To succeed, players must have the proper co-ordination, reaction times and game-sense to overcome their opponents.
The HSEL will be working alongside the High Schools League (HSL), run by New Zealand esports organiser Let’s Play Live, which successfully produced a school league of 50 teams last year in their home country.
The Crows’ league will be represented in the regions of South Australia, Victoria, Tasmania, Western Australia and the Northern Territory whilst the HSL will promote championships in the remaining states and New Zealand.
Each area will have two matches a week for 10 weeks to discover a state champion, before the top teams battle it out live on stage for the title of Oceanic Champion.
While competition is at the heart of this venture, the Crows’ chief operating officer Nigel Smart stressed that the HSEL’s focus is on personal development.
“Connecting Australian high schools to the expanding global esports’ ecosystem is something we felt was really important,” Smart said.
“It’s great to be able to connect students around Australia to such a large-scale championship where they can engage in something that is a passion point for them, and in a competitive but supportive school-based team environment.”
Wu, who previously worked for Riot Games Oceania running community and university tournaments, says that LoL “meets certain criteria,” that makes it suitable for the HSEL.
“Bringing esports into high schools is very new and early in the process.” Wu said.
“The game needs to be appropriate for the school ecosystem and it must be a reasonably popular game to reach students and deliver good outcomes.
“Riot Games provide a lot of support in this region. Not only have they been creating great learning resources and reaching out to schools but also have been working with organisations like Two Hat Security to develop materials around online safety.”
However, Wu confirmed that LoL is just the first step in a long-term process.
“We definitely want to explore the potential to bring in other games,” Wu said.
“In the same way it wouldn’t make sense to schools to only have basketball available to their students, it doesn’t make sense in the long run to only have one esports game. As we move forward we will work with schools, state education departments and other stakeholders to make sure that our games are suitable for the school environment.”
The other key objective of the HSEL is to bridge the gap between grassroots gamers and professional play.
Children that play traditional sports get a taste of proper competition and coaching through clubs and schools but in esports they are largely left to their own practice.
The HSEL will enable students to play in a proper team environment, giving them the skills they need to be competitive in a controlled atmosphere.
Nigel Smart believes that Legacy Esports and Avant Gaming will prove invaluable support to this effect by offering schools a range of advice, coaching and support.
“Esports players increasingly have a chance to play domestically and internationally,” Smart said.
“Earlier this year, our League of Legends player Lawrance Hui ‘Lost’ was recruited by international team Echo Fox from the US. His earning went up five-fold through moving to the US and playing in their academy team.
“More esports international teams are looking at Australia for talent and you will see talent continue to move off shore for greater prestige and earnings.
“The players and coaches of both professional teams will be involved in special events and coaching with students moving ahead.”
The Crows have encouraged any schools wishing to take part in the HSEL to apply before close of registration on May 23.
Matches will begin on May 31.
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