Multiplayer mode: Esports Club offers competitive fun

Thursday, November 11, 2021
Eureka Springs High School student Raymond Escoto points to the log-in screen for his Super Smash Brothers Ultimate Team, as students Sam Jackson (left) and Cesar Estrada look on.
Samantha Jones / Lovely County Citizen

Whether they’re playing competitively or watching the action on Twitch, everyone in Eureka Springs High School’s Esports Club is getting in on the game.

EAST facilitator Adam Louderback said the club started earlier this year, thanks to the computer-building skills of former student Kyle Plott. Plott, who graduated last year, spent this past summer literally bringing the computers in the EAST lab up to speed. Plott said he outfitted seven computers with high-end CPUs and new graphics cards.

“So they’d be able to handle 3D rendering or Photoshop, anything that would require a lot of processing power,” Plott said. “One of the computers I built more powerful than the rest, just for extra things they wanted to do.”

Louderback described that device as a super-computer. Without Plott’s help, Louderback said, the school couldn’t offer so many games through the Esports Club.

Louderback said the club has four active games: one League of Legends team, two Smash Brothers Ultimate teams, one Rocket League team and a single student competing in Madden 2021.

“I’m not a gamer, so I’m an outsider looking in. There’s not much I can help with other than just supporting them,” Louderback said. “That’s in the true spirit of EAST — it’s student-driven curriculum.”

Teacher Jason McAfee said the club developed from the school’s gaming club, where students mostly played table games. He loves seeing all the students work together on esports, McAfee said, and he’s especially proud of the League of Legends team, which is ranked in the top 10 in the state.

Esports is sanctioned by the Arkansas Activities Association, McAfee said. He said the fall season, which lasts seven weeks, is going well so far.

“Then we’ll have a tournament at the end,” McAfee said. “We’ve got about three more weeks in the season and hopefully we’ll make the playoffs.”

The League of Legends team includes senior Thomas Hayden and juniors Nathan Morrison, Justus Thao, Corbin Danos and Byron Clark. Hayden said he was part of the gaming club and happily joined esports when it became an option. The appeal of League of Legends, Hayden said, is all about teamwork.

“There’s a lot of games where you’re technically on a team, but you’re more or less on your own,” Hayden said. “In League of Legends, everyone has to work together and it creates a good level of camaraderie.”

Danos agreed.

“Playing with your friends is the best part of it,” Danos said.

Hayden recalled a recent game where the enemy team was ahead and became overconfident. That’s when the Eureka Springs team rallied together, Hayden said, for an underdog win. Danos said that game is a great example of what drew him to esports.

“It’s about the excitement of tournaments. We were so close to losing — we were almost going to call it a game — but then we saw an opportunity,” Danos said. “They were egotistical and we made a move on their flaw and we won. Being able to change the outcome to win — that’s probably one of my favorite moments in esports.”

Thao agreed.

“The moments we make in the game that can change the tide for us to win — that’s what gets me excited,” Thao said.

Senior JJ Owens, part of a Super Smash Brothers Ultimate team, said video games help improve hand-eye coordination and decision-making skills. He’s seen that through working with his team, Owens said.

“This is testing your strategy and teamwork skills, because when you get in a match, you’re on a different battlefield every time and you have to find the character you’re fighting and figure out what to do to defeat the enemy,” Owens said. “You have to gives a heads-up to your friends when you need help.”

What makes gaming so special to him?

“It’s kind of the same reason we tell stories. Stories have meaning, and you can get an understanding of the world through them, just like video games,” Owens said.

Junior Sydney Shaw doesn’t play on a team, instead focusing on live-streaming the games to Twitch.

“Esports can’t do the things we can do with basketball — we can’t have a big audience in here,” Shaw said. “But with Twitch, viewers can watch from other places and they don’t have to physically be here to see what’s going on.”

Plott, who returned to the school last week for the first time since building the computers, said he loved seeing everyone enjoying the devices he created. After all, Plott said, video games are so much more than just sitting behind a computer screen.

“I’m really happy to see there’s a lot of people hanging out and being more social,” Plott said. “Video games are about the community and the escape. Video games bring people together.”

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