As of this fall, competitive video gaming, or esports, is an official school activity in the Dallas Independent School District.
The initial hope was that as many as 20 schools would be able to field teams. But the interest level was far more than school trustees anticipated. So far, there are 64 official esports teams spread out amongst the district’s middle and high schools.
"I love games," said Eduardo Perez, a senior at Skyline High School who is president of the school’s gaming club and a participant on the school’s new esports team. "If you get to know me that is one of the first things you will figure out – I’m really passionate about games."
Perez acknowledges there are still people, especially people from previous generations, who will scoff at the thought of referring to playing video games as a sport.
But he is not alone in making the argument that the world has changed in recent years, making esports into not only a legitimate activity but also a viable career option.
There are multiple professional gaming teams that operate in the Dallas area alone, and the video game industry has gone mainstream with hundreds of millions of players worldwide helping to generate tens of billions of dollars each year.
Students involved in esports compete against one another, and against other gamers in tournaments involving the games Rocket League, Super Smash Brothers and League of Legends.
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In addition, making esports an official activity in the Dallas ISD will also be an effective way to get more students involved and engaged, according to district leaders.
"Being a part of a team, being included, being part of a bigger school community is invaluable," said Sharla Hudspeth, the Director of Student Activities for Dallas ISD. "This will provide students that aren’t typically involved in sports or other extracurricular activities a platform to showcase their talents."
As an added incentive for participation, Hudspeth noted that more than 250 colleges offer scholarships for esports athletes.
In the meantime, Eduardo Perez said that he is developing a wide array of 'real life' skills because of his involvement in competitive gaming.
"It teaches you good sportsmanship – how to take your wins, how to take your losses, being friendly toward the other players, good communication skills," Perez said.