Manurewa High School LoL Club

While eSports may still be a stigma in the minds of some, its outreaching popularity carries positive attributes that are often ignored. For starters, games can be used to create avenues that bridge social gaps like never before.

That influence can be seen at organised tournaments, like PAX events or the recent Tri-Force games. More existentially, game developers like Riot, creators of League of Legends, have sponsored tournaments with exclusive prizes to promote their brand.

The trickle down effect can also not be ignored. Universities and colleges are increasingly becoming more involved with eSports.

The last bastion of amateurism in eSports, the high school level, is now being breached. The High School Starleague (HSL) in North America encompasses 7,000 schools and over 30,000 students, allowing high school students to enter online tournaments and compete against other high schools.

Other regions have also started seeking ways to promote competitions at the high school level as well.

Here at Letsplay.live, we’re happy to report on one of those success stories in New Zealand. Steven van Garderen, who works in the Technology Faculty at Manurewa High School in Auckland, New Zealand, has created a new League of Legends program that his 9th and 10th grade students can enter in.

A passionate gamer himself, Garderen took the opportunity to promote his unique program during the school’s REWAlise event, a three day special program for 9th and 10th grade students.

Garderen explained that there were many obstacles he first had to first overcome before he could even think about getting his students involved,

“Fortunately for me, the school is well equipped with computers so I was able to access 4 rooms next to each other, which gave me about 100 computers at my disposal. Next was figuring out how to load all these computers and get them up and running. This is where the tech team came in and figured out how to download to one computer, then load it at the same time to 99 other machines. After some testing, which I particularly enjoyed, we had the settings right and extended the internet flow, and it was all running smoothly.”

Finally Garderen could send out the invitations to about 800 students. Of those 800, over 400 students put down Garderen’s program as their top choice. Since the computer lab could only support 100 computers, the list had to be dwindled down.

Garderen admitted his unique ability to connect with the students wasn’t universally accepted by his peers. “Once word got out to other teachers about what I was doing, it was interesting to see the response. Some teachers gave the usual, ‘gaming is a waste of time” speech but most were jealous,” Garderen stated. “The simple reason was that they realised that this was something that the students WANTED to do. So for me I didn’t need to sell the idea to students. All I had to do was make it enjoyable for them.”

After Garderen explained the values of being a responsible gamer, sportsmanship, and the willingness to teach others, it was time to hit the Rift. Experienced players were paired with beginners, with the basic concepts explained.

As the program evolved, workshops were held by students to cover more detailed in-game skills. On the last day, a tournament was created that features teams of five students. “[This ended] with some fantastic finals that really showed the class and skill of these players,” Garderen stated.

As other teachers came to visit the workshops and gaming tournament, they began to realize just how important games were to students. “Some teachers even commented that they should join this group next time because it looks easy to monitor the student’s behaviour,” Garderen explained, “The answer from me was always the same. I would look at them and smile and say, “‘Well of course it’s easy, it’s what the students like to do’”.

Manurewa High School’s winning team, Defiance, will be playing another local High school (TBA) in the curtain raiser for the NZGC Grand Final at MOTAT idea collective on October 12th. Letsplay.live and The New Zealand eSports Foundation are currently working with schools interested in starting their own eSports clubs.

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