Ryan Lame credits his academic success to his high school’s video game club.
“I think the reason why I’ve been getting my grades a lot better now is because I really care for this program and what it does,” Lame said. “It helps me out a lot because I can actually talk to somebody about a video game that a lot of people find nerdy.”
Lame, 15, is a member of the League of Legends Club at Des Moines’ East High School. League of Legends is a video game played online by many people at once, taking part in virtual battles.
Lame joined a group of about 65 other central Iowa high school students to play in a League of Legends local area network party at East on Saturday.
The participants played the game on their personal computers in three East High School rooms. The players were grouped into teams of five, and the teams played on a local area network against one another in the tournament.
Nicolas Lenk, an East physics teacher, runs the League of Legends Club at his school, and organized Saturday’s party.
In order to attend, students had to be passing all their classes, Lenk said. Students at the event said they saw the benefit of this requirement.
“Instead of kids not wanting to come to school, they’ll come to school so they can pass because they want to come to this LAN party,” said Moe Elsadig, 16, co-president of the Ames High School League of Legends Club.
Representatives from the High School eSports League, a Kansas City company, saw a promotional video online for the LAN party, and contacted Lenk about getting involved.
“It’s one of the first, or maybe the very first, eSport tournament (where) the school is supporting it,” said Ian Higgs, a co-founder of the company. “Even the maker of the game came out here today — they sent out a video crew to film it — because they see how big it is.”
The High School eSports League advocates for video games played competitively to be recognized as a high-school-sanctioned activity — like athletics.
The company’s representatives plan to begin giving presentations to states’ athletic associations by the end of June.
“We’re trying to bring in a whole new look on what your traditional sports are,” Higgs said.
Students at Saturday’s tournament said they believe eSports could be considered a high school sport. “I wouldn’t see why it couldn’t be considered a sport — everyone practices, they have fun, they have a team,” Lame said.
Lenk said he hopes students eventually can get letters for eSports.
“As Des Moines Public Schools and K-12 schools across the country prepare students for the future, we have to embrace what students are doing now in their free time, as their joy in life,” Lenk said. “Video games is that joy for so many students.”