The Newest Thing in Sports? Video Games

An E Sports athlete holds a gaming headset.
St. Louis Park jumps ahead of the crowd in the newest sports trend.
Boden Oelhafen from St. Louis Park High School.

Since video games first jumped onto the scene, parents have discouraged their children from staying in and playing all day. However, St. Louis Park High School computer tech teacher Jacob Utities thinks there are some benefits to the time spent gaming.

E Sports, or “video game sports,” as Utities describes them, are leagues of gamers with five to nine main games, depending on who you ask. E Sports is “more than playing a video game,” says Utities. “It’s a competition. There are leagues set up, just like any other sport.”

Different games mirror different sports. League of Legends, a multiplayer battle game, mimics football, according to Utities, while Overwatch, a multiplayer first-person shooter game, is similar to basketball.

Before E Sports leagues were first announced, Utities was considering setting up a team for St. Louis Park High School because of his own interest. All his life, Utities was involved with video games, calling himself an “early adopter” of the trend.

Once the leagues started, Utities jumped on the opportunity to start a league, being the first E Sports program to launch in Minnesota. Ever since the group started up, Utities has described the St. Louis High School league as “the center of Minnesota E Sports.” Other schools will email Utities to find out how to get their own leagues rolling.

While these leagues just seem like a way for kids to play more video games, Utities explains that's not the case. Students can compete like any other sport and are still exposed to similar teamwork opportunities like they would in baseball or soccer.

If the community isn’t enough, E Sports has far more to offer. There are different leagues involved when playing these video games. There are pro leagues where gamers can win money. Students can play for college leagues where they’re playing for a chance at scholarships.

St. Louis Park High School students now have a chance at getting a scholarship the same way other high school or college leagues do: by competing against leagues all over the country.

Right now, one of the biggest college scholarships a player can be rewarded is a half ride, but Utities believes within the next five years, there will be some full-ride opportunities.

Last year, St. Louis Park High School was the national Overwatch champions in the high school league and second in Super Smash Brothers.

Utities is thrilled that the league was able to come together in the first place. He describes it as the “perfect storm of students asking about [E Sports] and me looking into it.”

Utities also mentions that about 78 percent of all kids play video games. Dropping leagues down to a high school level was only a matter of time, and now the E Sports program is providing kids all around the world an opportunity to benefit from one of their hobbies.