Information technology teacher Lukáš Vobecký was responsible for the beginnings of the high school league in computer games more than eight years ago. Already during his studies at the university, he played competitions in the game StarCraft and later started organizing high school competitions in Českolipsk. He was playing Hearthstone. “That’s a smart card game. Today, for example, Counter Strike would probably be more popular among high school students, but due to the content of the game, we would not agree with the teachers,” explains Vobecký. When his Hearthstone league expanded to the Liberec region, he joined forces with the professional eSuba eSports organization. Over time, they changed the game repertoire, Heartstone receded into the background, the mentioned CS, Valorant were played, but finally, already under the baton of eSuba, the competition of high school students settled on League of Legends.
Among other things, Lukáš Vobecký organizes a university league in Slovakia under his LanCraft brand and runs The Nest gaming villa in Sloup, Bohemia. And in Česká Lípa, he still teaches at the secondary school, where four years ago they opened a high school graduation course focused on computer games. In the spring, the first graduates will graduate from it.
Interest is not lacking, money is
Last year, seventy-five schools participated in the high school esports league, but roughly three years ago it was twice as many. And getting at least an approximate number that would describe how many people the esports league reached in total is not easy. In addition to the players themselves, their supporters, mostly classmates, who enjoyed watching the match between the schools on the Twitch platform, must also be added.
So success and business?
“Success yes, but business by no means. We subsidized the high school esports league. Although we had partners who helped us at least partially cover the costs, it was never profitable,” explains Ladislav Dyntar, founder and director of eSuba.
In his case, the motivation for organizing tournaments in computer games for teenagers is the need to raise quality esports players. After all, eSubu, like other esports organizations, makes a living. The word quality must be underlined. And maybe even explain: Those who only steam, lose track of time while playing, get fat and do nothing else, they won’t last. It is not promising for esports as such. “Whoever wants to play at the top and maybe even make a living playing, has to have it all sorted out in his head. After years in professional esports, I already know who can be an asset to the team and who can’t,” explains Dyntar. A quality esports player plays sports, gets an education, has above-standard communication skills… How to achieve this? “Through quality player management, education and training,” summed up the director of eSuba.
How about that, Mr. Director?
The interest of high schools in participating in the esports league is great. However, Ladislav Dyntar admits that the motivation for participation and ultimately the approaches of individual schools to their students’ playing are different. A strong motivation for participating in computer battles between schools is simply increasing the attractiveness of the school in the eyes of pupils. Today, schools are mostly fighting for students, and gaming support is clearly a plus point in how students evaluate the school. Other times, for the favor of the principal, it is simply necessary to gain at least some control over playing, to which the pupils devote a significant part of their free time anyway.
Projects such as the Esport league of secondary schools give the opportunity to channel the gaming tendencies of young people into something beneficial. And they also allow less physically fit individuals to stand out and perhaps represent the school.
Let us remind you that in order for students to play in the Esport league of secondary schools, the consent of the school management is required. And practice knows both cases when the school explicitly supports gaming, for example, by organizing qualifying tournaments for participation in the league within the school, and also those when the students only receive the desired permission of the director, but the school does not give them any other support.
This is actually also the case of the Gymnasium in Pacov in the Pelhřimov region. The local pupils themselves lead a computer games club at school. “We have good experience with it. Those who understand the issue educate others who have the same interest. In this case, it’s computer games, specifically playing League of Legends,” explained Josef Novák, director of the Pacov grammar school. He is definitely not a fan of esports himself, but he accepts it as an interest and perhaps even a lifestyle of the younger generation. He believes that playing can to a certain extent develop young people in a direction that will be desirable in the coming years, so he gave his students permission to participate in the high school league. The students of Pacov Gymnasium have been playing League of Legends within their club for several years and are very good at this game. In the last played year of the Esport league of secondary schools, they finished just below the top, i.e. in second place. The winner was the Secondary School of Electrical Engineering in Pilsen.
What do you think, Minister?
Talking about organized high school gaming with people who play for a living is fun and almost contagious. Even so, the thought comes to mind as to whether the support of gaming goes somewhat against the effort to bring school-age children back to the playground. Lamenting how our children have become fat during the pandemic, reasoning about whether covid is to blame, or whether it is more our fault, and at the same time signing up for organized computer game playing, can be perceived as a controversial step.
“Of course, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports is aware of the need to support the physical activities of children and pupils, and in this context is preparing a plan for exercise activities at schools,” said Tereza Fojtová, press spokesperson and director of the Department of External Relations and Communication of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports. The ministry granted patronage to the Esport league of secondary schools. At the same time, the spokeswoman of the department reminded that only a certain part of the physically fit youth have the opportunity to excel in sports and that the talents of the others must be supported in various ways. “One possibility is gaming, which touches a large percentage of the young generation. In projects such as the Esport league of secondary schools, the possibility opens up to channel the gaming tendencies of young people into something beneficial and to enable even those less physically fit individuals to become representatives of the school on a nationwide scale.” She highlighted the fact that by playing computer games, pupils train cooperation and social skills , strategic thinking and planning, solving problems under pressure, managing successes and failures, increasing their memory capacity and, last but not least, improving their English language skills. “And they can also encourage students’ interest in science, technology, mathematics and other technological and natural sciences.”
Ladislav Dyntar from eSuba also agrees with this. “League of Legends is not played by chance, it is a team-based strategy game supporting communication and other necessary skills. I know that with Counter Strike we would have a hard time succeeding with pedagogues today.”
Will gamers become programmers?
The Czech economy would definitely need them. Almost all major Czech companies are looking for experts working in the field of IT, and they are attracting foreign workers to their ranks. So the question is: Is there a connection between playing computer games and the level of knowledge used in the field of information technology?
“It exists, but it used to be bigger in the past. Today, young people get everything ready when they want to play, they don’t have to worry about anything anymore, they just buy the game, at most they download something. From a technical point of view, everything is extremely simple. That was not the case at the very beginning,” points out Dyntar. “On the long side, it’s probably not possible for a game developer who doesn’t play. So the brains, without which we would not be able to play new games, are definitely recruited from the gaming environment,” he thinks.
The economic crisis also hit the gaming world. A number of esports sponsors have reduced or completely canceled their support, and this year even the high school Esport league became a victim of savings. Together with it, a league of universities and companies. Will you miss these computer game competitions?
It’s a shame, esports is the future and should be supported already at school level.
Company competition is fine, but computer games do not belong in schools.
Playing computer games is entertainment that does nothing good. Let everyone play at home when they feel like it.
A total of 2 readers voted.
The Czech Republic is a very important point on the imaginary gaming map of the world, the games of Czech developers are played all over the world and, what is certainly important, they earn huge money for their creators.
Better than sitting in front of the TV
“Kids today don’t spend nearly as much time in front of the TV as we did. They prefer to play and I think this is a move for the better,” thinks Dyntar. He perceives gaming as an activity in which, unlike watching television, it is necessary to think, react and communicate. He is not one of those people who would like esports in the Olympics. But at the same time, he points to the fact that 77 percent of esports players, i.e. those who take playing computer games seriously, also actively play sports, that is, they play some kind of sport at a competitive level. This is a higher percentage than the general population in any case. “There is no doubt that good esports players are true sportsmen in spirit,” concluded the debate on the benefits of playing computer games, the director of the eSuba eSports organization.