New game Hunter: RHS student starts eSports club, league
The idea hatched from a shell of interest and frustration.
“I got cut from the [Ridgefield High boys] soccer team at tryouts last year,” said Will Hunter. “That’s when I thought about trying to get something organized for eSports at the high school. I’ve always played video games, and I knew that other people were into them, so I thought it might have a chance to catch on.”
Quickly, it turned out.
Within a few weeks, Hunter had collected around 40 signatures — more than enough to gain status as a club program at Ridgefield High School. As word spread, so did sign-ups: A month later, Hunter had 80 students registered in the club.
“It went better than I imagined,” said Hunter, a rising senior at RHS. “I had a vague idea that maybe it would be cool if we could play Wilton (Ridgefield’s arch-rival in most official high school sports). When I presented it that way to kids, there was a lot of interest.”
Even if they have encountered the term eSports, many people (especially those 35-over) have an understanding that ranges from slight to non-existent. But eSports, which include a host of games — most notably League of Legends, DOTA (Defense of the Ancients) 2 and CS (Counter Strike) GO — played over different consoles, are what happened when Space Invaders and other primitive video games stepped aside for those with highly evolved technology, giving players an action-packed virtual reality — one based on making strategic decisions and whacking opponents for points.
Another thing about eSports: They are booming. According to Newzoo, a leader in digital games data, the global eSports audience will rise to 385 million people this year, with revenues surging from $130 million in 2012 to $696 million in 2017.
The biggest competitions — featuring teams of professionals — draw enough spectators to sell out venues such as Madison Square Garden, and eSports are under consideration to become an Olympic sport for the 2024 Summer Games in Paris.
After the eSports club was approved at Ridgefield High last fall, Hunter organized teams that competed in the High School Starleague (HSL), an online organization that offers scholarship money. “Out of all these teams our CS:GO and Smite teams did the best, and barely missed qualifying for the playoffs,” said Hunter. “If those teams had made it to the playoffs they would have been in the running for hundreds of dollars in scholarship money.”
During the High School Starleague season, Hunter came up with another idea: Creating a league with other FCIAC schools.
“I first reached out to Wilton to see if they would be interested, but they had no club like ours,” said Hunter. “I did further research and found that Staples, Danbury, New Canaan, Fairfield Ludlowe, Greenwich, Darien, and Brien McMahon all had either gaming clubs or eSports clubs. I contacted each town individually, and everybody agreed that they would be interested in forming a league of sorts, and thus the FCIAC eSports League was born.”
Several of those schools entered teams in the first-ever FCIAC eSports championships, an unofficial event that was held online in June. Hunter and three other students live-streamed the games on Twitch and later uploaded to YouTube.
Spurred by the initial success, Hunter has widened his eSports vision for the 2017-18 school year. He has drafted an 11-page League Constitution, with plans for two regular seasons (fall and spring), followed by two LAN (in-person) playoffs/championships. Players from FCIAC clubs will compete in four games: League of Legends, Overwatch, Hearthstone, and CS:GO.
“Our goal is to have four teams from each of the eight FCIAC schools that are interested. That would give us 32 teams,” said Hunter. “But if more schools start clubs then we would expand. Of course we would love to have Wilton be one of those new schools.”
Notes: For more information, visit the RHS club’s Twitch page (twitch.tv/fciacesports) or join the Ridgefield eSports Facebook page.