WAYLAND — It was Saturday and yet plenty of students were at WACO High School glued to computer monitors and trying to figure out the best strategy to vanquish their opponents.
For only the second time, WACO School District hosted a Two weeks tournament for area eSports players. Two weeks is a player vs. player battle royale game where weaponless avatars are dropped from a “Battle Bus.” on landing, the players must scavenge for weapons, items, resources, and even vehicles while trying to stay alive and attack other players. Over the course of a round, the safe area of the map shrinks down in size due to an incoming storm. This forces remaining players into tighter spaces and encourages player encounters. The last player, duo, or squad remaining is the winner. Seventh-grader Cain Newman had been eliminated in his first match, but hoped to make a comeback and win the tourney during his next turn at the keyboard.
“I won the second round in the loser’s bracket,” he said. “I’m still looking to get in higher tournaments with higher rewards.”
Newman has been a gamer since the Nintendo Wii came out about nine years ago. He explained gaming is a great way to meet new friends and to be able to focus on things outside of daily life.
“You can build gigantic structures, which has kind of turned into a competition by itself,” Drew Ayrit, technology coach and junior high science teacher, said. “Players start with a ramp to build up and they build these gigantic towers and try to get on top of the other people’s tower and win.”
During the event in the WACO Innovation Lab, 32 players from eight different schools battled to be the last man standing. While the lab had only 27 computers and there were issues with being able to log onto Epic Games delaying the tourney, the students happily worked with each other to share computers and provide accounts. Even so, the students never lost track of the idea were in competition for many prizes, including controllers, T-shirts and the grand prize of a gaming chair. Ayrit explained the chair would be presented later in the week.
Newman commented he had his eye on the chair.
“I feel as if the rewards and people knowing there are rewards encourage people to participate event more,” he said. “Doing something you love and getting rewarded for it is really good.”
While the creation of an Innovation Lab has been incubating for a year and a half, the concept was implemented and finalized early last year. It was made possible through a $25,000 Washington County Riverboat Foundation grant, with an additional $12,000 coming from the school’s Physical Plant and Equipment Levy (PPEL). All the video games are free.
The Innovation Lab is open after school on Monday and Tuesday to all students. On Wednesday, it is reserved for female students only. Thursdays and Fridays are reserved for students interested in competing in Esports.