More than a game: the rise of eSports

MITCHELL BARNES

The search for professional gamers has moved into the classroom, with a new eSports league introduced to Australian high schools. 

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Overwatch Contenders is a training ground for pro-gamers. Photo: Supplied

The Australian eSports league has created a high school competition – known as the AEL High School circuit – to engage children who don’t want to play traditional sports.

But like those pastimes, eSports teaches individuals to work together towards a shared goal. Teams of three compete with each other from schools across the country.

The competition has launched with popular sports-based game Rocket League, but is expected to expand as more schools become involved.

Psyonics, the company that produced Rocket League, is a key sponsor and said they were committed to seeing the circuit grow.

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Rocket league, a 3 vs 3 soccer simulator, using vehicles. Photo: Psyonics games

Daniel Pazant, manager for the The Chiefs’ Rocket League team, a professional eSports outfit, said the new circuit would help expose children to the professional scene.

“I’m not sure that it is a good indicator for professional level, but it definitely helps get them to think about a career in professional gaming,” said Pazant – known more commonly on the eSports stage as Paz.

“If they keep practising, reviewing plays that work and play in the university level after high school, they will have a much better chance of getting into the scene.”

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The Chiefs Rocket league teamPhoto: Supplied

University level professional gaming has existed for three years, starting with the ESL college circuit in the US.

With the rising success of Overwatch league, currently being broadcast on Twitch and ESPN, the market for eSports is growing fast.

Mica Burton, one of the hosts of Overwatch Contenders, the university-level circuit in the United States, explained the importance of entry-level professional gaming.

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Mica Burton, one of the hosts of Overwatch ContendersPhoto: Mica Burton

“Having a company like Blizzard sponsor a league like this, it gives these kids a chance to be seen by the big leagues,” Burton said.

Blizzard are the creators of Overwatch, and sponsor the university (Contenders) league, as well as the pro-level circuit, the Overwatch League.

With rising popularity, the skill level required for successful players increases. Those hoping to break into the scene need to practice and build a reputation.

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Ben Perrin streams Terraria on Twitch to global viewers. Screenshot by Mitchell Barnes

Ben Perrin, a small-time streamer seeking to become recruited by a professional team, said it was essential to build a network.

The Twitch platform is the most effective way to do this, being the primary distributor of eSports around the world.

“Get known amongst other streamers, and you will build your name and start to get noticed,” Perrin said.

“You also need a brand. Just being known as a good player won’t be enough; you need to have something that makes you stand out.”

The chance to be paid handsomely to play eSports will attract more children to consider gaming as a career, but like traditional sports, only the best will turn pro.

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