Dundee competes in eSports
DUNDEE--In an effort to engage students not necessarily interested in traditional athletic sports, the Dundee Central School District started offering an eSports team this year to high school students. Dundee freshmen Mathew Kennedy-Brewer, Collin Snow, Cameron Chilson and Aiden Fatta are currently gearing up to practice four days a week under the tutelage of their Coach Dylan Blencowe for the upcoming Rocket League season.
"It was our superintendent's idea, Kelly Houck, and I wanted to jump on it as soon as I saw it was available. It provides a great opportunity for students who don't participate in regular athletics," Blencowe said.
Blencowe, a computer technician in the administrators' office, added that eSports helps connect students from across New York state and allows them to compete against one another regardless of how much money or how many students a district has.
"It helps to break down the barriers between schools. Any school in New York can participate, and we have already played schools towards the city and I'm not even sure where some of the schools we played were exactly," Blencowe said.
For the first season that just ended in January, students played League of Legends, a highly complicated online battle arena game, but for the upcoming season that starts in February, Blencowe said the team will play Rocket League instead.
"Rocket League is basically playing soccer with rocket powered cars," Blencowe said.
For Collin Snow that fits right into his wheel house as he is currently contemplating an attempt at becoming a professional video game player.
"I have been playing video games almost my entire life, but I've only gotten serious with it since I was 11. I like spending all of my free time diving into one or two games or categories to get better at it and maybe one day see a competitive future. I was just thinking on focusing on Rocket League, because it is just a high skill cap game that is technically demanding," Snow said.
While the group has participated in traditional athletics, the new program at the school allows collaboration in a new way.
"I've never gotten a chance to do this with other people where I am on a team playing competitively. Except basketball, and since this is something I am way more passionate about and since I know my teammates better I get way more into this. It makes me care about it more," Aiden said.
All four agreed that playing and practicing together has made them better players. For the first season Blencowe said that he threw his team into the deep end by choosing League of Legends, as it is a highly demanding game that can take months if not years to master.
"They had never played it before and some had never even heard of it. All of them have played Rocket League before so I expect the fact it is native to them will play a role in the upcoming season," Blencowe said.
Part of the difficulty in choosing which game to play is that players of the current generation tend to play more console based games while previous generations leaned towards PC gaming in larger numbers.
"Not too many kids today have a dedicated gaming PC, but most do have consoles like Xbox or Playstation," Blencowe said.
Which is one of the reasons why Blencowe said he chose Rocket League as it is available to play on every platform.
Letting students play video games with each other against teams from around the state after school using school equipment is a way for the school to ensure they are reaching out to every student said Blencowe.
"You heard my guys say it, it interests them. It's something that they actually care about and want to do. It gives them that sense of teamwork, they want to be a part of a team, but they also want to do something that really interests them and I'm glad that we can finally offer it to them."
For his part, when the program was announced last year Cameron said that he was excited about joining the team all summer.
"And that is why I am so excited to see how this goes, to see how the program not only helps these guys grow but grows around them," Blencowe said.
Blencowe added that despite the fact that the roster is currently all boys the team is not gendered and that girls are encouraged to join, have fun and compete.
"I would love to get everybody in here...that is the best thing about gaming, it's a whole different skill set that allows people who don't usually play sports to participate."