Sometimes the hardest part of an esports practice is just getting the game to load on everyone’s computer. On a recent Sunday afternoon, Rainbow Six Siege, was not cooperating.
“New game, new problems,” Information Technology’s Todd Brubaker, the club’s sponsor, said. “The League of Legends, which the kids normally play, loads pretty easily. But they wanted to try something new today.”
After making a few more adjustments, Brubaker had all 10 members of the Culver Esports Club playing their first practice game.
It’s all in a day’s work when your primary gear is a computer and a robust internet connection. Normally, it is not a problem, but Rainbow Six is such a powerful game, the school-issued laptops can’t run it, so the players brought their personal gaming laptops to the practice session. And some of those beefed-up monsters have pretty intimidating names: Predator, SabrePro, RazorBlade, and Alienware. Other players had enhanced gaming models from MSI, Asus, and Dell. But Brubaker said most of the games the club plays will run on the school-issued Dell computers.
The club is the brainchild of Jilei (Leo) Bu ’20 (Zhengzhou, China), and it officially kicked off last year when students came back from winter break. This year, the group is in the process of having another callout session to increase its numbers. A minimum of 10 players are needed so they can practice the multi-player games they will face in competition. The competitive schedule begins after spring break, Bu said.
The club has just enough boys right now (girls are welcome), but if someone has a conflict, Brubaker said they can’t play practice games. In competitions, five players will go head-to-head with another school’s players in an online showdown.
As they ran through their practice game, the players were relatively quiet. After they were finished, Bu said one team would move into another room so team members could talk strategy with each other without tipping off the opponents.
Last spring, the club finished 16th in the regional High School Esports League competition, he said, and the goal this year is to reach as least the top three. That would put them in the national championship tournament. Those matches would be livestreamed, similar to the collegiate and professional esports competitions that have been broadcast.
According to the HSEL, esports is similar to other sports in building communication skills and team-bonding. It also ties players into a booming industry that includes streaming, production, programming, and management. And it further opens the door for players to become interested in the science, technology, engineering, and math fields.
And, if you’re good enough, some colleges are now awarding scholarships to esports players.