This January, Nantucket High School’s esports team Devils of the Deep advanced to the quarterfinals in the post season of the first-ever Massachusetts Interscholastic Online Gaming Season.
In October, the Massachusetts School Administrators’ Association officially sanctioned competitive virtual gaming, commonly known as esports, as a high school activity. This allowed the organization PlayVS to organize the first ever Massachusetts interscholastic League of Legends league. The initial season, named Season Zero, has high school esport teams competing against teams from other schools across Massachusetts. Season Zero was very successful for Massachusetts, with 38 five-student teams competing in the regular season.
The two esports teams at Nantucket High School, Devils of the Deep, and The Harpooners, were supervised by Game Club Advisor and history teacher John McGuinness. The teams function similarly to a club activity like Quiz Bowl, but also share similarities with other sports teams. The two teams took part in a 12 game regular season which determined the seeding for a postseason tournament. The 12 games happened over six weeks, with two matches a week. The team would meet in Mr. McGuinness’s room on Tuesday nights to play two games of League of Legends. Each game would be against a different school, and would be at 4pm and 6pm respectively. Instead of regular practice schedule, after sports and homework the esports teams would turn on their computers to practice the game as a team: communicating with each other over video chats.
Nantucket High School’s A team, Devils of The Deep, was composed of Captain Joseph Osley, Co-Captain Cameron Gottlieb, Tadhg Cawley, Daniel Murphy, and Alexis Herrera and finished 7th in the league of 38. The Devils of the Deep proved themselves further, advancing to the quarterfinals where they were defeated by the Gatekeepers on Tuesday, January 15. Senior Cameron Gottlieb reflected on the team’s success with pleasant surprise saying, “Joey and I had to make the team in a school full of students who had never played the game, but we have had a great season.”
The game that the teams are playing, League of Legends, is a multiplayer online battle arena video game published by Riot Games. The game is ultimately one of objective defense, similar to capture the flag. Each player takes control of a powerful but unique character known as a champion; each champion has different abilities and traits. Along with four allies, each champion battles with an enemy team: each looking to destroy the central building of the opposition, known as a Nexus. Each Nexus spawns weak, computer-controlled units, known as minions, that will mindlessly march down one of the main three lanes into which the game is divided. Eventually, the minions will encounter their counterparts, or opposing champions, and they will engage in a fight to the “death”.
Game Club Advisor John McGuinness praised the MSAA for making esports an official activity as it brings many of the redeeming qualities of athletics to students who may or may not participate in sports. The students who participate in esports have their grades monitored just like student athletes, and learn to quickly and intuitively strategize and communicate with a team to outplay the opponent. Though gaming often gets a reputation for isolating teens, McGuinness says that he finds “joy in the fact the League of Legends team brings students with similar passions together to learn communication and improve their skills.”
PlayerVS is dedicated to offering non graphically violent video game competition. Though League of Legends is a combat game, the combat is largely dependent on magic and unrealistic violence. Further, when a champion is slain, he falls over and is respawned at the nexus. Esports have been gaining popularity in the last couple of years, with collegiate and professional gaming leagues popping up all over the country. Esports have taken hold around the globe with the 2018 League of Legends World Championship drawing in over 200,000,000 viewers compared to the Superbowl’s 103,400,000. Senior Captain Joseph Osley urged, “Try playing League of Legends, this esports thing isn’t going away anytime soon! It’s so much fun.”
By Henry Dupont