High School Association Plots Esports League

With the support of the startup PlayVS, the National Federation of State High School Associations will bring esports leagues to high schools around the country starting this fall. The partnership, focused on STEM-based education, will not include the popular first-person shooter genre.

The growing phenomenon of esports, surging in popularity among young adults, is getting some major support from from the organization that sets the rules for high school sports activities  of all shapes and forms.

Since there are more high school gamers than athletes, it’s about time we foster this pastime in an educational setting.

Last week, the National Federation of State High School Associations announced a partnership with PlayVS, a startup that will help build an infrastructure for high school esports. Planning for an inaugural season starting in October, NFHS will introduce the concept to state associations, with the goal of launching in at least 15 states. PlayVS, meanwhile, will focus on building relationships with game developers and will run the infrastructure that will allow players to compete for state championships—which could lead to college scholarships, as traditional sports do.

NFHS Network CEO Mark Koski said PlayVS was chosen because it focuses on the educational and participatory aspects of gaming. “PlayVS’ philosophy on high school-based sports and focus on participation perfectly aligns with the NFHS and its member state associations,” Koski said in a news release.

In comments to Variety, PlayVS CEO Delane Parnell noted that esports “is about more than just playing games. It can be used to help students grow their STEM interests and develop valuable life skills, and since there are more high school gamers than athletes, it’s about time we foster this pastime in an educational setting.”

NFHS said it will be selective about what games are included in the the initiative. Although first-person shooter games like Overwatch, Fortnite, and Counter-Strike are among the most popular multiplayer games in esports, they will not be part of the program.

“First-person shooter games we believe do not fit within the education mindset that we are hoping to bring to this activity,” Koski told the gaming news outlet Polygon.

The program will include 10 officially sanctioned games, including fighting games like Street Fighter V, sports games like the FIFA series, and multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) games like League of Legends. Each state-based organization will choose the games it will allow students to compete  in.

“If a state association says, ‘Hey, we do not want a fighting game!’ or ‘We’re going to stick with a MOBA game or a sports game!’ then that’s up to them. So every state will be slightly different,” Koski said. He added that NFHS will not prohibit states from organizing their own shooting-game competitions on the platform.

(Tero/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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