Esports team makes its debut at Robinson Middle

TIME TO PLAY THE GAME. Two members of Robinson
Middle Schools eSports team play Super Smash Bros. on
Nintendo Switch.

Courtesy of Cameron Buck

TIME TO PLAY THE GAME. Two members of Robinson Middle School’s eSports team play Super Smash Bros. on Nintendo Switch.

Quinlin Yeager, Staff Writer

Have you ever wanted to play video games at school as an extracurricular activity? Would you like to compete with other gamers at other schools all over the United States? Well, the eSports team at Robinson Middle School does exactly that.

ESports is a form of competitive video game playing. Cameron Buck, an 8th grade math teacher at Robinson Middle School, is one of the eSports team coaches.

“While many video games have some form of in-game ranking system, eSports teams are normally formed outside of the game’s systems,” he said.

Some of the competitions are individual, while others are team-based competitions.

The students at Robinson were excited to hear about this new club. There were over 100 applicants which had to be narrowed down to about 60 players.

While some thought it was just an excuse to get to play video games, Buck believes that students quickly understood this would be a fun but serious activity.

Rachel Cable is one of the eSports team captains.

“I thought that it would be fun and I wanted to get to play more video games in the time I get to,” she said.

ESports team members are treated like any other student on a physical sports team. Members are expected to behave well in their classes and coaches check their grades.

“If they aren’t doing well, they aren’t able to compete,” Buck said.

He added that the team has acted as a motivational tool for some students.

“I saw students bring grades up from failing every class to all A’s and B’s in a matter of weeks after learning this,” he said.

Buck loves playing video games and saw the eSports club as an “opportunity to share my passion with students while helping them to focus on something they care about”.

Many middle school students already spend much of their free time playing video games, so Buck feels this is a great way for students to make friends and represent their school by doing what they love. With the current pandemic, large groups gathering together isn’t ideal, so although games can be team-based experiences, eSports members can also compete alone and in safety.

The eSports league that the team has joined is called “Generation eSports”.

“There are teams and players from schools all over the United States,” Buck said. “Each player is assigned a username and password to sign into their website. Then, the player has access to join the matches for the games they are competing in.”

Match times are predetermined; there is an 8 week regular season, followed by a 2 week playoff and then the final winners are determined for each game.

Currently, the eSports team at Robinson Middle School competes in “Fortnite”, “Minecraft”, “Super Smash Bros.”, “Mario Kart 8”, “Just Dance” and “Rocket League”.

At this time, Generation eSports only offers these games to middle school students. It is the hope of team members that more games will be added as the league grows.

Players are allowed to play on any system or platform that they are comfortable with, such as an Xbox, Playstation, Nintendo Switch or PC. However, some games are only offered on specific systems.

“Super Smash Bros.” is only available on Nintendo Switch and “Minecraft” is only available on PC. For games such as “Fortnite” and “Rocket League”, players have the choice of whatever platform they choose to play.

Some choose to play “Fortnite” on a PC because they feel they can build faster, where others are more comfortable with a controller than a mouse and keyboard.

“Cross-play is enabled for each game that supports it, so it is really individual player preference,” Buck said.

Over time, Buck hopes that Dobyns Bennett High School will start an eSports team so that Robinson students will have a place to continue to be a focused competitive team after leaving middle school.

ESports teams are starting up at universities and colleges across the nation, with some team members earning full scholarships for competing.

“It would be incredible to see some of our players end up with scholarships or successful YouTube channels,” Buck said. “You only need to look as far as the front page of YouTube and see that playing video games can lead to a lucrative career. Playing video games in a focused, productive setting can lead to a lot of good things in life along with the entertainment they provide.”

Some people feel that video games are not a good way for kids to spend their time.

“I would disagree with them,” Cable said. “There have been many studies that show differently.”

Buck would also love to see Sevier start up their own eSports team so that there can be some local competition.

Cable has high hopes for the future of Robinson’s team.

“I hope that more people can get more into it and we can play against and get enough money to afford more equipment so we can practice at the school,” she said.