High school is a time for teens to discover their interests – sports, academics, clubs, future careers. At Pocahontas County High School, the newest team is for students who love to play videos games.
The video gaming industry has grown with international online leagues, multiple platforms and an infinite number of games to play – from fantasy to racing – they have it all.
At PCHS, it all began when business education teacher Cammy Kesteron asked her seniors what they thought the school could do to improve.
“[Senior] Brandon Price said, ‘If we had more things for different kids to do because not every kid is an athlete and not every kid is an academic,’” Kesteron recalled. “He said, ‘If we had a club for kids to game,’ and I thought it was interesting because lots of kids are really good at gaming.”
Kesterson did some research and found that Esports is open to the region, and the program PlayVS is offered in West Virginia.
“We’re in the Southern Atlantic Region for Esports,” she said. “Monday, we actually had a match with a school from Rhode Island.”
The PCHS team didn’t have enough champions to play in the game, so the Rhode Island team canceled the match and set up a private match to allow PCHS to gain champion points.
With PlayVS, there are two seasons – the fall season from October to January, and the spring season from February to April.
The PCHS team started late in the fall season, but has been able to join matches and get familiar with the two games of the season.
“We’re playing League of Legends and Rocket League,” Kesterson said. “We’re hoping in the spring to do Madden and Fifo, which is soccer. We want to broaden our horizons a little bit, but we need to get some controllers. The reason we’re doing the two that we chose is they’re PC based, so they can do those here [on the computers].”
Kesterson’s fellow coach, David Moore, donated a PS4 to the team, and Kesterson said she hopes they can beef up the team’s collection to add more gaming options.
“It came together super fast, so we’re not nearly as prepared as we need to be,” she admitted. “We’re trying to work bugs out of things. It’s a lot of little technical steps that you’ve got to put together.”
The West Virginia Department of Education started an initiative with PlayVS and provided grant funding for the competition fees. Of the $1,350 needed, the WVDE provided $1,100. The business education department was able to pay the rest.
In League of Legends, the team has to have five members play together against their match mates. Rocket League – a game with racecars playing soccer – needs only three members.
The students set up meets and practice their skills before the other teams join for the actual competition.
Kesterson said one of the most rewarding things to witness is students taking charge and troubleshooting for themselves instead of fully relying on her and Moore to fix everything.
“The other night, they were playing and giving directions to each other,” she said. “It’s nice to see them figure things out for themselves. I gave them zero directions. This is truly a learning experience.”