Back in 2017, 75 school teams from across New Zealand competed in High School League Season 2 – a multi-week, interschool tournament that saw the top four teams face off in front of a live audience at Armageddon Expo in Auckland.
When we spoke to Reilly Gardner, a student from Aquinas College, he’d just come out of the secondary finals with a loss to Northcote College – yet you’d never have known by looking at him.
“Being at Armageddon’s a really cool experience, for all of us it’s our first time here, and being able to play our favourite game on stage in front of so many people was so cool,” said Gardner, with a beaming smile.
Being able to play our favourite game on stage in front of so many people was so cool
“Even though it wasn’t as close as we wanted, adrenaline was high and it was really intense. Going ahead, we’ll just keep practising – look for some tournaments to play in – and get more time in as a team so we have a better chance of winning next time!”
Gardner is the captain of Aquinas’ second League of Legends team, an offshoot from the main team set up with the help of his teacher Jonathan Persson, or “Jono” as the students call him.
“We broke off from the first team, got some new young players and tried to challenge them,” Gardner explained. “We’ve been focusing on teamplay mostly: our teamfighting, our rotations around the map, that’s how we can practise best together.”
On the main stage, Mt Roskill Grammar School and Mt Albert Grammar School fought boldly to claim the Grand Final.
Mt Roskill was coming off a tough split, as the team had to replace its star player Vincent “Kedu” Fang after he left to join Team Regicide in the Oceanic Pro League.
“We had a rough start to the season,” said Roskill’s Liam Liang. “Replacing our star captain and ADC meant we had to build around new carries so we could gradually improve and make our way to the finals here.”
The final was hard-fought, but Mt Roskill managed to come back from one game down in their best-of-three series to claim victory. As any League player who’s started their promos with a loss knows, pulling yourself together in a high-pressure situation can be simultaneously challenging and rewarding (if you’re able to pull it off). Thanks to their coach and their in-game mastery, they completed their comeback to win 2–1.
“To win this split another time feels really good,” said Liang. “I was quite nervous at the start, I almost threw up in the booth, but I’m really glad we could overcome it.”
Having a live crowd to watch was fantastic, which was a dream of mine when I first saw that games could be played at a competitive level
“I feel really privileged and really happy about being able to attend this event. Having a live crowd to watch was fantastic, which was a dream of mine when I first saw that games could be played at a competitive level,” he said proudly.
A Really Fun Time
For Liang, the benefits of an event like this extend beyond his own personal experiences.
“I feel like it’s going to really help build the image of esports and competitive gaming in general. Me being able to go up there, win and represent our school, will show my school that this is an option, that it’s just as legitimate as other sports or any other activity you can do competitively.”
Students don’t have to be top-tier players on the level of Reilly Gardner or Liam Liang to enjoy participating in a high school League of Legends club, however. As Gardner explains, there are tangible benefits for everyone involved.
“It’s just a really fun time,” he said. “You get to meet a lot of people, and even though there’s only five of us on the team, you make friends because you’re playing with them a lot. You learn good communication skills and socialise too.”
Liang, meanwhile, has a message for students who are struggling to convince parents, teachers or even other students of the benefits of a League of Legends club.
… it’s really important in building teamwork and social skills, which are crucial skills to have in the real world; being able to communicate with others and work together
“Tell them it’s really important in building teamwork and social skills, which are crucial skills to have in the real world; being able to communicate with others and work together. Also, having these different opportunities open to you, which if you’re good enough you can take advantage of.”
A high school League of Legends club can be started at any school, but must be led by a teacher. If your students are interested in playing in this year’s tournaments, check out the learning objectives at the core of the initiative and how a club benefits students. If you’re ready to start a club, head to our Getting Started page for tips on how to begin the process.
The high school tournament schedule is yet to be announced (we’re still ironing out the details) but keep an eye out for more info later in term 1!