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CHS adding eSports teams, with hopes to compete at state championships

By Jameson Thompson

CHS Esports

Clinton High School has added a new program offering this fall: eSports. ESports, short for electronic sports, is a competition where players, often in a team configuration, compete against each other in video games. Some video games require players to be at least 18 years old for them to compete at competitive levels. However, some games, such as Fortnite, allow thirteen-year-olds to compete for millions of dollars through online gaming.

ESports tournaments can be both amateur- or professional-level, and they have grown in popularity to often even be spectator events. In recent years, colleges and universities, as well as high schools, have begun launching eSports teams. The International Olympic Committee is also considering the addition of eSports in the future.

For the upcoming school year (2022-2023), eSports has been named an officially sanctioned state championship for Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) member schools, with champions to be crowned in both the fall and the spring league seasons. Clinton High School will offer students the opportunity to compete in video games that include Madden, 2k, Splatoon, Rocket League, Hearthstone, Smash Brothers and Overwatch.

“Adding to our slate of state championships always excites us, because it shows the growth in participation among our member schools and students throughout the state,” said MHSAA Executive Director Rickey Neaves. “Our eSports program has grown very quickly, and we deeply appreciate the support across the state and with our partners PlayVS and the E-Plex located at the Outlets of Mississippi. We look forward to continued growth and success of eSports.”

Broadcast journalism teacher Adam Chance has taken the reigns of organizing the CHS team.

“I’ve been trying to get eSports here since I’ve been hired,” said Chance. “I brought it up last year, and now we are getting things up off the ground.”

Since many students are interested in the program, tryouts are hosted to determine which students can participate in the different games. In order to make the CHS team, students must try out for the specific game in which they want to compete. A participant fee of $100 will cover competitions and jerseys.

“We host tryouts for each particular game…to determine who is good at what game, so we don’t have too many players on each team,” said Chance. “When the new 2k comes out, I expect at least eighty students to try out. Each day, four to five students come to my class to ask me about 2k tryouts. We have around 150 students who will try out; by the time we finalize the teams, there will likely be fifty players on our team overall.”

The 2019-2020 school year marked the inception of eSports as an MHSAA activity, and participation during the 2021-2022 school year grew by more than forty percent year-over-year. During the past season, the MHSAA formalized a partnership with the Outlets of Mississippi and the E-Plex to host state-wide events and renewed its partnership with PlayVS.

“PlayVS’s continued partnership with MHSAA will unlock significant opportunities for high school students passionate about eSports across the state of Mississippi,” added Chris Black, who oversees strategic partnerships for PlayVS. “One of the foundational reasons our partnership has been so successful is our shared belief in the power and accessibility of eSports – it is for every student. We are continuing to take leaps forward as we open the pathway for more students to compete, grow and be recognized in partnership with the MHSAA.”

Most Mississippi universities and community colleges also have collegiate-level eSports teams, and colleges across the nation are beginning to open eSports arenas. Many offer scholarships for eSports, as well.

Since the CHS eSports team is new, there may be some uncertainties, but Chance says he has high expectations for the new program.

“I expect to go to state and be very competitive,” Chance said. “We have so many people looking to participate, and our Smash Brothers team should be very good. I am also really glad that we have so many interested students.”

CHS senior Nigel Dixon expressed how excited he is about the new eSports program.

“I’m so glad that we have an eSports team,” said Dixon. “When I’m at home, I always play games with my friends. We play 2k and Madden a lot, so it feels good to know that I will have the chance to be able to play with them.”

Senior Braylon Evans says he is also excited for the new eSports program.

“I’ve been playing video games for my whole life. Two of my favorites are Rocket League and Overwatch, two of the games I will be trying out for,” said Evans. “I’m very excited that I have the opportunity to try out, and I really hope I make the team.”

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