Throughout 2016, Teachers from 20 different schools across Australia and New Zealand began setting up clubs where students can make new friends, play games, and even compete in tournaments.
LEAGUE IN SCHOOLS
In Auckland, Manurewa High School set up a LoL Club after the success of their yearly open tournaments, where students of varying skill levels can compete and mentor each other in League of Legends over three days.
“Last year was the first year we had the esports team officially running,” says Steven Van Garderen, Hard Materials Technology Teacher. “We made sure it was on the official sports roster so that it would be recognised as a sport. We even have a photo of the team in the yearbook.”
“The hall was filled with close to 400 students; we had to turn many more away because there was no more room”
Every Thursday, Van Garderen brings students together for up to three hours to train on Summoner’s Rift and talk team strategy. Although it was only their first year, the Manurewa students had the opportunity to showcase their time-honed skills in front of their peers thanks to a live tournament in the school hall.
“We weren’t sure anyone would even come and watch,” says Van Garderen. “The club was blown away when the hall was filled with close to 400 students; we had to turn many more away because there was no more room. The students playing were cheered by the audience and were blown away by the response.”
The interest in League clubs is palpable for these teachers. Stanley Chang, Science Teacher at Auckland’s Howick College had a similar view: “Initially I wasn’t expecting many students to show up to the club,” says Chang, “but when around 60 or so students turned up, I had to change the [meeting] venue to the school gym in order to fit so many students.”
Instead of competing in school, Howick College’s LoL Club opted for an online tournament. Twelve teams took to the Rift, with students playing from home over multiple weekends, communicating via school Discord channels.
“In a way, the club allowed students to develop new friendships and bonds”
“Students in general were eager to play the game with each other but most importantly, they were able to use the club as a platform to communicate with other students they have never spoken to. In a way, the club allowed students to develop new friendships and bonds.”
In Western Australia, Flaktest Gaming ran a huge interschool tournament which spanned four leagues across 16 different schools. The competition was fierce, and the all-female team from Penrhos College claimed the Bronze League victory, defeating the cleverly named St Bridges team ‘League of Ladies’.
“Penrhos College were the epitome of positive gaming,” says Brett Sullivan, ICT Teacher at Tranby College and founder of Flaktest Gaming. “It wasn’t about winning or losing, it was about sharing the experience.”
“It wasn’t about winning or losing, it was about sharing the experience”
The grand final of the Diamond League, the highest tier of competition at the Flaktest Gaming tournament, was held live in front of a crowd of 200 people. There could be only one victor, and Shenton College Diamond came through with the goods.
Flaktest Gaming have strict conditions of entry, each team must be represented by a teacher from their school. In Shenton’s case, this was Andrew Mayhills. “The two Shenton College teams who won the finals were meticulously organised,” says Mayhills. “The existing infrastructure [in WA] prohibits the playing of the game onsite per se—so while students played representing the College, they had to be creative in terms of finding opportunities to practise outside off-site. When we realised they couldn’t play at the College, one team simply packed up their gear and took a train into the city to play in a cafe!”
Brett Sullivan notes that the boys showed fantastic teamwork skills, and that P V A /Ronan, their captain, proved to be an exceptional leader. ”His mother was stunned when she saw her son play live and win, pretty much on the back of his decision making skills and leadership.”
THE FUTURE OF HIGH SCHOOL CLUBS
The interest in LoL Clubs is growing, as League of Legends’ social and competitive nature makes it a prime candidate for teaching sportsmanship. The success of Manurewa College’s tournament has piqued the interest of its student body, and the club expects to grow its numbers by the hundreds in the coming year.
“The biggest thing is getting acceptance,” says Barry, the student captain of Manurewa’s eSports team. Gaming can often be perceived as an isolating hobby, something that distances students from their peers as opposed to bring them together.
“The whole crowd erupted with appreciation and it blew teachers away.”
By openly holding League of Legends high school tournaments, this misconception has the potential to be broken down—not just in the eyes of students, but teachers as well. “What was amazing,” says Barry, “is that at first teachers were apprehensive. But the crowd was unbelievable, they were cheering on the big scene. The whole crowd erupted with appreciation and it blew teachers away.”