Richfield’s new eSports club has everything it needs to be considered a sport: teams, weekly practices and a coach. While the two games they play regularly, League of Legends and Rocket League, aren’t what comes to mind for many when they hear the word “sports,” eSports have risen in popularity in the past few years and provide the opportunity for all students—not just those who have an interest in athletics—to be part of a team.
The Richfield eSports teams are not too bad, either. The League of Legends team finished their first competitive season ranked #20 out of 90 teams across several states in the Midwest—which puts them in the top 22%! The Rocket League team finished #24 out of 137 teams (top 18%). Both teams advanced to playoffs.
“Year one of eSports has been more successful than I could have imagined,” said Ken Friel, Richfield digital learning coach and eSports advisor. Just last week, the #24-ranked Rocket League team beat the #9-ranked team from Chicago to advance to the “sweet 16” of finals.
So what are League of Legends and Rocket League, exactly? These online games prioritize teamwork and communication, much like other team sports.
In League of Legends, teams of five players face off against each other, each with a specialized “champion” with wildly different sets of abilities, play styles and responsibilities. Not only do players need to fully understand the mechanics of their own champion, but also their teammates’ and the other team. Each player can choose any of the available champions to play, and there are 159 champions currently available to choose from—so, that’s a lot of knowledge needed to be successful! While the game tests reflexes, critical thinking and decision making, successful teams excel at communication and teamwork.
“In my experience, it's been fun being able to play as a team,” said student Jose, who led the effort to form a League of Legends team. “A lot of team-building skills are practiced, as we coordinate plays in games. We get to build better relationships with each other, and most importantly get to have fun.”
In Rocket League, players are grouped into two teams of four. Essentially, it’s soccer—but the players are in vehicles. So, the goal is to hit a giant soccer ball into the other team’s goal by bumping the ball with your car. Except the car has rockets on the back, allowing players to be airborne and have short bursts of speed.
While it’s exciting to be in the top 22 and 18 percentages at the end of the season, the best parts of the Gaming Club are the camaraderie and friendships.
“All the students came together to help create our gaming room,” said Ashley Acevedo, an IT staff member helping with the group. “It’s created a place for all students to become friends, regardless of their grade or age.”
Over the course of the year, more than 70 students attended eSports during WIN time. Approximately 20 of those students have played after school. Thanks to our funding partners at Beacons, we were able to purchase gaming chairs, a couch, LED lights and a nintendo switch. Funds provided by our last technology levy assisted with the purchase of gaming computers, which students helped to set up and upgrade with new graphics cards.
“Growing up I’ve always felt like I haven’t had people to relate to or had people to do things with,” said Tevy, a member of the League of Legends group. “The eSports team has given me something to look forward to. Friendships built through games, community and a sense of unity are friendships that last forever.”
For the upcoming 2022-23 school year, the season will start on September 16. RHS students need to sign up for eSports and enroll in Beacons to participate.
The eSports club has big dreams for the future, with hopes to add other games like Valorant, and possibly other consoles like PlayStation or Xbox. They also plan to participate in the Minnesota Varsity League (MNVL), a statewide high school eSports competitive league. A few students also hope to work with RHS art teacher Grace Sacher on a project to create a 20-foot canvas to decorate the gaming room that includes eSports-inspired student art.