Video games as a sport? ND high schools embrace the trend of eSports

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The competitive video gaming world is becoming an international sensation. eSports have reached millions of fans and generated hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue, and now its something you will see in North Dakota schools.

Schools across the state are creating their very own eSports programs.

eSports aren’t like your typical high school sports. There’s no physical contact, no bleachers of loud fans, but they’re something many schools around the nation have turned to.

Mandan High School is one of the 14 schools in the state to take up eSports.

Mandan Superintendent Dr. Mike Bitz says, “This isn’t just your traditional gaming that you would play in your basement. This is team building activities that require you to work together and develop the skills that employers want.”

By 2022 eSports revenue is estimated to reach over one billion dollars, and interest in all aspects of the game is surging.

“We surveyed our freshman, sophomores, and juniors and we had 181 students express interest in playing eSports,” says Bitz.

The school is spending approximately $20,000 for an eSports lab, which will cover construction, equipment, a coach and any incidentals. While it might sound like a big chunk of money, its a way for the school to help everyone feel included.

“If we can take 181 students that are maybe underrepresented or not involved in activities and involve them in activities and give them a sense of belonging, then that’s a good return on our investment,” says Bitz.

There is no travel required, and students who want to be a part of the program won’t get cut from the team.

And if you don’t video games are is treated like a real sport, think again. Dr. Bitz says he saw first hand how serious people take this as a sport.

Dr. Bitz says, “There were students in there lab watching video of Robert Morris University. They were playing Robert Morris that week and they were getting tendacies for their players. It was no different if you were watching video for basketball or football and try to get tendacies.

Bitz expects they will have to make some adjustments since it’s the first year, but they are excited for the opportunity. “My hope is that this is something that our students can participate in and enjoy for years to come.”

Mandan High has still not found a coach for the new team. The official season starts in October.

North Dakota high schools with eSports programs:

  • Central Cass High School
  • Dakota Prairie High School
  • Drayton High School
  • Grand Forks Central High School
  • Hillsboro High School
  • Larimore High School
  • Mandan High School
  • Minnewaukan High School
  • Northern Cass High School
  • Northwood High School
  • Red River High School
  • Rugby High School
  • Westhope High School
  • Williston High School

Bismarck State College, University of Jamestown, and Dickinson State University are also launching teams this year.

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