Competitive Video Gamers Bond in New High School Club

Comstock Park High School junior Mark Razmus threw his arms up in the air and declared, “Victory! I got three kills, 10 deaths and one assist.”

Seated next to him, freshman Dominick VanTil shared his stats on the game League of Legends: “I got 20 kills, 19 deaths and two assists.”

“Show off,” Mark said.

Around the Comstock Park High School classroom, excited students chattered about minions, monsters, weapons and other fantastical elements while immersed in the video game. Competing against each other in a medieval-looking world of epic monsters was proving to be a noble quest.

While the gamers battled, juniors Josh Chua and Connor Young observed the fun.

Connor and Josh launched the Esports Club last semester as a way for students interested in gaming to come together after school in a competitive league. As many as 35 students have participated, and about 20 attend regularly.

“There were no clubs at the school that fit us,” Connor said about their motivation to start Esports. “We played video games with our friends but we wanted to get something started at school. “We’d seen other schools doing it.”

“It’s a lot different from playing online at home,” added Josh. “We are bringing our experience from home to school to play with each other.Comstock Park junior Mark Razmus cheers during an Esports Club session

Tournament Opportunities

Esports, or competitive gaming, has grown into an industry including popular tournaments with big prize money and scholarships. For example, the League of Legends Championship Series, which has taken place annually since 2011, brings the best players from around the world to compete while millions of viewers watch online.

Esports at Comstock Park is one of the first local high-school gaming clubs. Members are participating in the 10-week high school StarLeague Tournament, vying against 2,000 schools worldwide for a pot of $35,000 in scholarship money. Tournament play culminates in playoffs and finals.

“It’s a learning experience,” said Josh.

Josh and Connor said the students use skills like teamwork, carrying out an objective to achieve a goal and their tech-savviness in gaming, but more importantly, they’re bonding over something they love.

“It gives people who don’t have a club or something to do after school. A lot of these kids probably wouldn’t participate in regular sports and they play video games at home,” Connor said. “But now they are getting the social interaction and making friends at the same time.”

Some afternoons are spent playing on individual laptops, while sometimes games like Mario Cart and Super Smash Bros. are projected onto several large white boards in the room. That’s when things get really lively.

“That’s a really cool experience to see that many people interacting, and you don’t see that very often,” Connor said.

High School math teacher Dave Staublin, the club’s advisor, said Josh and Connor made the club happen on their own by presenting a plan, setting up a board, developing rules for membership and presenting the plan to staff members.

The club reaches a different group of students than athletics, art and music does.

Junior and club co-founder Connor Young looks on as junior Alyssa Yost plays

“Most of the kids in here would not be involved in anything related to school,” he said. “We are reaching a group of kids who would otherwise have nothing to do with school outside of school,” Staublin said.

Junior Brayden Demmink said he likes to see students talk out strategies, high-five each other, and cheer each other on.

“I like how it gives people a chance to come in, hang out and do what they like to do with friends,” he said.

CONNECT

New York Times article on League of Legends

League of Legends

High School Star League

Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers and On-the-Town Magazine. She has been covering the many exciting facets of K-12 public education for School News Network since 2013. Read Erin's full bio

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