BANGOR – This year, high school students will be able to play for a state championship on and off the field.
“What got people excited was the fact that they could involve a new set of kids into a school activity and that the kids are clamoring to be able to do this,” Maine Principals’ Association assistant executive director, Mike Bisson, said.
The MPA will sponsor ESports and is partnering with PlayVS, an ESports platform, where students will be able to compete in Rocket League and League of Legends.
In 2018-2019, the MPA didn’t sponsor ESports, but several students from schools around the state played ESports against other students outside Maine.
“When we get 20 schools they’ll set a schedule for each of the activities whichever game people are playing and then they would play on Tuesday Thursday afternoon and work towards a state championship,” Bisson said.
“You have to have a coach and the school has to agree to pay, you have to have a certified coach through PlayVS so kids can’t play until all those steps are met,” he added.
The schedule models a typical sports season. Sept. 21 marks the beginning of the preseason, the season begins on Oct. 12, and playoffs start Dec. 7. The MPA is adopting the schedule and points system from PlayVS.
One Maine ESports fan is excited to see ESports come to high schools. Sean Stackhouse is an MCI grad and Rocket League commentator, who has traveled to Las Vegas, Boston, and Texas, among other states, to broadcast Rocket League events.
“Can you imagine you go from highlights of the Brewer quarterback throwing a touchdown and then you’re going to be talking about a crazy double tap by the Bangor Rams in Rocket League,” Stackhouse said.
While excited, Stackhouse says there are several hurdles for schools, including but not limited to, technology that can support gaming and internet bandwidth.
“You know how internet can be here in Maine. In some areas it’s good in some areas it’s really not,” Stackhouse said.
Whether a school can overcome those challenges will most likely come down to if it can afford to. Schools will have to expense everything from the $40 PlayVS subscription per player to gaming equipment. Students can use their own equipment, but it has to meet the school’s networking policies, guidelines up to the school.
“You don’t need something that’s super high end,” Stackhouse said. “You don’t need a $1,000 PC to do it, I mean I was able to play both games [League of Legends and Rocket League] for years on a PC that I don’t think cost me more than three maybe $400.”
Another obstacle is COVID-19 as the virus has put budget constraints on schools around the state.
“Obviously with the situation we have going on with budgets I’m a little concerned, but I’m sure we’re going to have plenty of teams that are interested with the lack of options they had this spring,” Bisson said.
Brewer High School is still evaluating its budget, but is exploring ways to add ESports without any impact to its local budget.
“Every kid needs something special to really get excited about going to school for and if this gets a few more kids excited about school teaches them leadership skills gives them more camaraderie teamwork then it’s certainly worth it there’s no downside to that at that point,” Bisson said.
Bisson also added PlayVS does offer a stay-at-home option for students compete if COVID-19 impacts students returning to school in the fall.