Gaming athletes connect, communicate, compete

Eddie Burgin , Entertainment Editor

From 2:10 to 3:30 on Tuesdays and Thursdays, room 228 can be found full of students engaging in their chosen pastime  video games.

Whether Animal Crossing, Minecraft, or Roblox, math and computer science teacher Karl Spencer  works to form an environment for gamers.

“The normalization of playing video games in the past however so [many] years is something that’s starting to become more socially acceptable,” Spencer said.

He provided statistics that, “About 98% of all students 18 and younger play video games, about 60% of adults play video games.”

Spencer said video gaming is growing into a larger industry and the stigma around the hobby lessens “with the recognition that sometimes playing some of these games at a high skill level is actually kind of impressive, and people want to watch it.” 

Just around five years ago, Spencer’s own club was casual gaming. Two years later, a few students inquired about playing a competitive game called League of Legends and changed the course of the club. 

League of Legends, as senior captain Jackson Chance said, is “five on five. Each player has a different role… There’s top, jungle, ADC, which is attack damage carry, and support. Each different role has their own characters and such… trying to capture the other team’s base.”

From there, esports collaborated with IHSEA, or Illinois High School ESports Association. Now,  IHSA has recognized esports as a sport, and gaming Bengals will compete with other schools at that level.

Previously, East competed in an IHSEA contest.

“We came in second, but hopefully we’re going to come in first this year,” Chance said.

The club is about more than just competition.

It features recreation, mental health, and teamwork.

“You’re working a lot of the time in a team environment, communicating, planning how you are going to achieve your goal in an effective manner. The difference [is] maybe you’re not on a court or a field. It’s a digital environment, but it’s still an activity and a sport,” Spencer said. 

His plan is to encourage communication skills with club members and allow students to learn teamwork in a fun and engaging environment.

To Spencer, it is more important for esports to assist students than it is for them to win a trophy or competition. 

“One of the big things I try to take away from each season is not necessarily a record, but ‘have you learned how to effectively communicate with your teammates?’ along with allowing them the ability to learn how to work with a team to work on those communication skills, work on those leadership skills, work on the ability to disagree, to make mistakes, and to grow and reflect on what you do,” Spencer said.