KENDALLVILLE — It’s not playing video games in school.
After school, well, that’s a different story.
At Wednesday’s East Noble School Corp. board meeting, teacher Chad Moore and IT department lead technician Josh Walter gave a presentation about the school’s burgeoning eSports club, as well as plans to add an eSports class in the future.
If you’re not a teen or not a gamer and have no idea what eSports is, simply put, it’s competitive video gaming.
And if you just rolled your eyes, hold on, because eSports have become a bigger global business than most professional sports. Gaming teams, tournaments, sponsorships, online streaming and even broadcast on television, eSports is a more than $100 billion industry.
So how does East Noble fit in to the mix?
“Everyone seems to be playing games so we’re trying to capitalize in what engages kids,” Moore said.
If students are really interested and engaged in a class, it not only gets them to show up to school every day but has also been shown to improve their performance in the rest of their courses, too.
First off, as both Moore and Walter wanted to make clear, students aren’t coming to school and getting to play video games during the day instead of taking math and English.
Instead, what’s planned for a future Intro to eSports class would be something more akin to a career skills class based around eSports.
“It’s more about building skills for real-world things,” Walter said.
For example, skills like graphic design for making team logos or graphics; photography and videography to learn how to stream, broadcast or make videos; journalism or broadcast to cover eSports; computer building; computer troubleshooting; telecom networking; and coding or programming are all types of job skills that would support competitive gamers.
Outside of the classroom, at a club level, East Noble High School is in its second year of eSports, with teams of students who compete with other schools around the state or around the nation. On Wednesday night, East Noble’s gamers were playing a match against Kankakee Valley in northwest Indiana.
East Noble players play a couple different games.
League of Legends — perhaps the most popular competitive video game worldwide — pits teams of five against each other to seize territory and ultimate destroy the other team’s base.
Super Smash Bros., a Nintendo Switch game in its latest iteration, is an arena brawler allowing multiple plays to bash and smash other players with the goal of knocking them out of the playing field.
And lastly, Rocket League, which is most simply summed up by the concept of soccer, but with players driving around cars to knock the ball around instead of players kicking it with feet.
A callout for the eSports club brought out 200 interested students, although Moore said they couldn’t accommodate nearly that many.
Like other extracurriculars, students meet after school and practice together as a team and then compete against other schools.
Moore and Walter said one major aspect of eSports club is that it attracts students from all walks of life, but especially reaches students who maybe aren’t athletes in terms of traditional sports or aren’t interested in other types of clubs.
Beyond being fun, eSports is not just a massive industry but it’s also a burgeoning college competitive scene, with more than 170 schools offering scholarships to talented gamers.
“These kids are getting actively recruited,” Moore said. “They want those kids who are great gamers because those kids are lead their IT departments, computer science departments.”
Trine University, for example, has a large eSports program and is one Indiana university partnering with East Noble as it grows its own program.
Long-term, Moore and Walter would like to see the class created and also work to grow it with more space or upgraded equipment. Powerful computers needed for gaming could also be utilized by other classes for things like video editing or production that require more computer power than the average laptop or desktop.
Board members — although some were admittedly skeptical at first blush about introducing video gaming into school when so many parents struggle to get their children off game systems at home — were supportive in seeing it as a way to hook students and then teach them some usable career skills.