Esports team provides competitive outlet for students

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Lexi Holdiness

Esports is now recognized as a MHSAA varsity-level sport. MSMS’s esports team provides students the opportunity to compete and potentially receive scholarships.

Levi Stevens , Staff Writer

With the rapidly approaching sports seasons here at MSMS, many students may be wondering, where do esports belong with the rest? 

This year, the Mississippi High School Activities Association answered this question by officially recognizing the MSMS esports teams as varsity-level sports. Now that esports is truly a state-level sport rather than a club, students will find an opportunity to pursue their hobbies while still becoming eligible for unique, high-paying scholarships.

Esports Captain James Talamo explains that the team gives its members more than exhilarating gameplay.

“Esports gives students a way to participate in a stress-relieving activity,” said Talamo.

While gaming remains a leisurely hobby for many, it seems the competition has become a bit more serious with the official recognition of varsity-level esports.

“This year it seems like more of a competition than just a pastime, with more steps needed to be eligible to play,” Talamo said.

It appears the stakes have become higher to match the formality of esports at this level. 

“As esports continues to rise, more and more scholarships will become available for players,” Talamo added.

Now esports scholarships are being offered to more students than ever, it seems the gap between esports and traditional sports may be shrinking.

The games offered by the MSMS esports team are Rocket League, Super Smash Bros. and League of Legends. Rocket League fits into the sports genre, Super Smash Bros. fits into the fighting genre and League of Legends is in the multiplayer online battle arena genre. Students interested in playing a game to socialize might like playing Smash Bros. Currently, it’s the most popular team among students. Its gameplay tends to be more beginner-friendly compared to games like Rocket League and League of Legends. 

Although only three games are available, the state league allows the school to form teams for many other games. The MSMS esports coach, Jonathan Decker, said some state-supported games include Call of Duty, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Splatoon 3. 

“The esports team is open to adding any games MHSAA hosts a league in. If you have a game and can find enough players, we can begin the process of adding the game,” Talamo said.

Once a part of an esports team, students will play competitively during each of the esports seasons: fall and spring. The deadline for joining teams during the fall season has ended. However, Talamo said students will be notified when the spring season is open for signups. 

Students interested in joining multiple esports teams in the same year might face some restrictions. Decker said, the Mississippi esports league does not allow players to participate in two different esports for the same week of competitive play. Thus, if students want to play two different esports, they may need to balance their time or simply play the games in different seasons.

Holden Hebert, a junior Rocket League player, said he joined the team to meet new people who share similar interests while also competing to push his gameplay skills to the top. Similarly, Eric Macasek, a junior Smash Bros. player, said he looks forward to the experience of participating in tournaments on a competitive level.

When asked about the place for less-experienced players within esports, Hebert said less-experienced players may actually have more fun just playing with their friends. He added skill level is an extremely important factor for fitting in with the team. However, said he believes new players can learn skills quickly if they are invested in improving. As an invested new player, Macasek said he feels he fits in on the junior varsity team.