Kids can cash in playing their favorite video games

Jake Sapp | Staff Writer

Last year, being the best video game player at your school got you bragging rights. This year it can get you $2,000.

In recent years, the concept of Esports has become an increasingly popular pastime among gaming enthusiasts, and even more recently, the culture of Esports has made its way to Mason High School in the form of a scouting program for Mount St. Joseph University. The school is offering $2,000 scholarships to students interested in their Esports program.

Head Coach and supervisor of the team, Tim David, explained the program as a recruitment process more than an after-school club, and an opportunity for students to display their skill to collegiate-level coaches.

“The program coming to Mount St. Joseph University, will have students compete in League of Legends, Fortnite, and Rocket League,” David said. “We will be offering Esports scholarships to a select few individuals who prove themselves to be capable of bringing skill to the team.”

The team isn’t just something that anyone with mild skill can walk onto, David said. Applicants will be evaluated on a number of factors that will determine their eligibility for the team.

“A lot of the games can measure your in-game metrics, so it is a valuable recruitment tool,” David said. “However, you can’t take it at face value and still need to interact with the players. I want players who are open to criticism, looking to lead, and work hard at the game.”

Junior Weston Fox plays video games on his Xbox console.

David is no outsider to the realm of Esports himself, and said that his experience with the culture has helped to determine what games the program will be covering in its first year.

“League of Legends has been a game I have been involved in since 2012,” David said. “It’s also most popular collegiate Esports and continues to be the main Esport for a lot of universities. Fortnite and Rocket League have also made a huge impact on the Esports team, and have drawn a lot of attention to themselves from University teams.”

There are a number of students at MHS who have voiced their interest in the program because of their passion for competitive gaming. Sophomore Alec Gruenwald said the opportunity is intriguing considering the inclusion of Rocket League, a competitive online soccer game where you drive supercharged race cars in order to knock a ball into the opposing team’s goal.

“It’s something that I am definitely considering trying out for,” Gruenwald said. “I’m pretty good at Rocket League so I think I’d have a good shot at making the team if I practice.”

Gruenwald believes that his history with the hobby has contributed to his interest in Esports and the culture surrounding them.

“I’ve been a big fan of video games for most of my life,” Gruenwald said. “Back in the second grade my dad bought me a PlayStation 2 and I’ve been hooked ever since. I think it’s really cool thing that there are now people who are scouting for professional Esports teams now, especially since just ten years ago the idea of that would have been laughed at.”

Sophomore Abel Yemaneab is an avid player of League of Legends, an online multiplayer battle arena game that has become the centerpiece for Esports as a whole. She saidthe opportunity to earn a scholarship playing video games is enticing.

“It’s not something you see everyday,” Yemeneab said. “I certainly would have to get a lot better at the game if I wanted to get onto the team, but two-thousand dollars is two-thousand dollars the way I see it.”

Junior Weston Fox sits down to play one of his favorite video games, Rocket League.

A number of students around MHS share the sentiment that Esports shouldn’t be considered as a legitimate sporting event. Junior Weston Fox says that he agrees with said individuals, but still thinks that there are positive experiences to be had within the realm of competitive gaming.

“I don’t really think of it as much of a sport either,” Fox said. “I see it more as an activity than anything, but it’s still a lot of fun. The competitive aspects of [Esports] really heighten a lot of the desire to get better, and it’s a good way to connect with friends as well.”

Much like how other collegiate sports teams scout for High Schools to give offers to for their programs, MSJ is reaching out to High Schoolers in particular in order to popularize Esports and their team as a whole.

“High School students will help make this program grow and become known,” David said. “We want this opportunity to be known in Cincinnati, and it starts with students who are interested and want to compete in Esports.”