Sapulpa High School recently held tryouts for its after-school eSports program. This fast-growing “sport” has seen a recent explosion all over the world as global events, like the current pandemic, have kept people indoors and unable to participate in more traditional activities. Additionally, the digital world has expanded into all aspects of life, as schools, workplaces, and homes are converting to all-digital material due to almost constant upgrades in technology.
“My favorite part about coaching eSports is getting to see these kids from every facet of the school. Band, Athletics, Debate, Choir, or even the kids who have never participated in other activities at all come together,” said Jesse Swayze, Sapulpa’s eSports coach, and IT Systems Administrator.
The Sapulpa High School eSports program is an after-school extracurricular activity that allows kids to practice and compete in the Oklahoma eSports League (OeSL). The program welcomes kids from 9th-12th grades who have a passion for playing video games and competing.
The season is split between Fall and Spring and divides up games so the school doesn’t have to provide all of them at all times. The Sapulpa team plays three games—Madden 22, Rocket League, and Smash Brothers Ultimate.
The games provide essential solo and team skills required by other sports, such as team strategy and cooperation, which are key to both duo and team play. Players must learn communication skills to quickly and efficiently execute plans and provide changes as the team adapts to the opposing players’ skill level and choices throughout the matches and bouts.
“eSports gives [the students] the opportunity to make new connections and lifelong friendships they’d normally not have had the chance to make otherwise. Watching them come out of their comfort zones and learn to work together is truly remarkable,” said Swayze.
Madden 22 is the latest game in a franchise going back to 1988 on the home computer. The game continues the idea of a football video game that requires real football knowledge. The game was originally built as a simulator for football and was famous for John Madden demanding there be 11 players on screen, despite the technical limitations of the time. The game requires knowledge of player stats and real time football plays as well as offense and defense formations. As the player, students can call audibles, hot routes, and player motions prior to the ball even being snapped. Last year, senior Evan Burton placed 3rd in the Madden Championship.
Rocket League is a popular eSports title that combines cars and soccer. The game pits solo and team players driving cars and hitting a large ball into the opponent’s goal. Cars can use turbo boosts to speed across the field, stick to the walls, or fly through the air in a spectacle of metal and speed. The game requires quick reflexes as well as strategy for keeping a balance between offense and defense. Passing and teamwork can be the key to out-playing the opposing drivers.
Smash Brothers Ultimate is the latest game in the popular franchise that started on the N64, which pits favorite Nintendo characters in cartoonish fights for supremacy. The game, which was originally supposed to be just a fun party activity, has been a staple in the eSports world and has become one of the more technical games in the fighting genre. Even older versions of the franchise are played throughout the world in tournaments and leagues. The game requires knowledge of all moves of every character in order to play or counter play various fighters. Players will also get to know individual players’ preferences for certain characters to provide strategy for picking characters, either to counter certain fighter strengths or to pinpoint individual players’ tendencies.
The Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association (OSSAA), in a 14-0 vote, made eSports a championship activity for some schools across the state. In the spring, some schools will participate in the first State eSports Championship. Sapulpa is not currently involved, but as eSports continues to expand in the world, it is expected to become more inclusive and prominent.
The Sapulpa Chieftain gamers currently have no opportunities for outside spectators, but Swayze has stated they are looking to provide streaming capabilities so Sapulpans can cheer on their new athletes as they take to the controller to play other teams for virtual glory.