Esports phenomenon continues to see rise in popularity

This story was originally published in the fifth edition of The Lion’s Tale (March 26, 2021).

The dictionary definition of the word athlete is “a person who is proficient in sports and other forms of physical exercise,” but in the new age of rapid technology that many high schoolers and young adults are growing up in, the term athlete now has a whole new meaning.

A new wave of online gaming, which has taken the name “esports” in the past few years, gives athleticism a whole new angle. Esports are a type of sport competition that uses video games basically competitive gaming. Esports commonly takes the form of organized, multiplayer video game competitions, usually between professional players.

The rapid growth of the esports phenomenon has found its way to the hallways and computer labs of Oviedo High School, as the competition is being played in our very own esports club.

Around the campus you can find flyers promoting esports tournaments, in which the team is advertising their Rocket League competition.

Rocket League is a vehicular soccer game that was released in 2015 on Microsoft Windows and PlayStation 4 and later on Xbox One and Nintendo Switch after gaining some popularity.

Rocket League brings two major gaming concepts together in one: sports gaming with the soccer aspect and racing games in the car player aspect.

Aside from Rocket League, there are a number of other games that have taken over the gaming scene in the past 12 months. Some of these include Animal Crossing, Minecraft, Rainbow Six, Valorant, Raft and Among Us.

Esports are making their way to phones, consoles and computers all around the world. Many students attending Oviedo High School are taking part in these online games as well. Juniors Lauren Holmes and Quinten Adkins are two of the many people that have experimented with the new games.

“Among Us became really big over quarantine, and I was bored one day and was like, ‘yeah I’ll try it out, it looks interesting’,” Adkins said. “It became so addicting; it really helped pass the time during lockdown.”

Many students who don’t usually play video games in their free time also found themselves getting more into the esports scene.

“I usually don’t have much free time with school and art, but now that I have a bit more I got back into playing Minecraft on my phone or Among Us with my friends, or even watch[ing] other people gaming on streams,” Holmes said.

Many people do not consider online gaming a sport because of the lack of physical exertion. The mental and social benefits, however, are immense, and according to some, makeup for the lack of athleticism.

“Gaming has helped me improve my hand eye coordination a lot more than I thought it would; it also helps my problem solving and strategy skills a lot,” Holmes said. “Especially when playing Among Us, the whole game is about strategy and problem solving, so it’s always fun when I get to work on finding out who the imposter is and getting a win.”

Although many will continute to debate the nature of esports, few can deny the activity is here to stay.