High school gamers from around the country are getting ready for the New Zealand High School League of Legends Championships esports event that kicks off this week.
Hosted by the University of Waikato, more than 60 teams from 35 different schools around the country have signed up to compete in the online competition. It is the first esports event of this level and scale to be hosted by a New Zealand university.
The University of Waikato has partnered with Riot Games, makers of popular esports game League of Legends, to deliver the event.
Head of Esports at Riot Games Oceania, Chris Schubert, said the event will be a valuable platform for young gamers.
“Organised League of Legends high school esports supports the next generation of young people in creating meaningful relationships, providing opportunities to represent their school and a different way for teachers to support the development and wellbeing of their students,” says Schubert.
Tom Featonby, manager of the OMEN Esports Arena at the University of Waikato, says it’s encouraging to host an event of this calibre.
“The University of Waikato is leading the way in esports at a tertiary level in New Zealand,” he says.
“We continue to seek further ways we can increase the positive impact we’re having on the esports scene in our country, and this league is a perfect way to do so.”
Secondary school teams competing in the tournament will begin with league rounds starting this week, followed by an online knockout tournament. The grand final will take place at the Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts on August 15.
The successful Kiwi team will then compete for a chance to head to Australia and play in the ANZ Championships against an Australian state champion.
While Covid-19 has required the university to postpone the start date of the competition, Featonby says esports offers a flexibility that traditional sports do not.
“The lockdown and the level restrictions have had very little impact on our league for the most part. We have continued to engage with schools to get them signed up and ready to play.
“Whether the students play from home or at school, the vast majority of the positives of competing remain, such as communication, cooperation, comaraderie, teamwork, leadership, school pride and socialisation.”
Featonby says despite Covid-19, esports as a whole has had an opportunity to thrive during the lockdown.
“During the lockdown people have looked for other ways to stay connected with each other. Esports is a great way to do so.
“With our partnership with PingZero we were able to run numerous Rocket League tournaments which were very well attended. This showed not only the strength of esports as a whole, but also the community surrounding it in New Zealand.”
Featonby says having the opportunity to host the High School League of Legends Championship is a step in the right direction for the university.
“We have invested a lot of time and energy into making esports a point of difference for Waikato. Last year, we teamed up with OMEN (Hewlett Packard’s gaming brand) and PB Technologies to open the OMEN Esports Arena – New Zealand’s first dedicated university space for esports.
“This year, we have awarded the second 2degrees Esports Scholarship for School Leavers since its establishment in 2018. We have also created an esports community that continues to grow, and we are looking to host more esports events in the future.”