INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) — Back in March, we introduced you to Tipton High School’s new $35,000 virtual reality and Esports lab. The technology and gaming lab was the dream of teacher John Robertson and thanks to a grant from the Tipton County Foundation, he made it happen!
However, John’s dreams were even bigger. His Esports team, the Blue Devils, was growing, and it was time to expand the idea across the state of Indiana.
After a chance encounter with northern Indiana teacher Nate Thompson at a gaming convention, the two created the Indiana High School Esports Network, or IHSEN.
IHSEN is a statewide competitive video gaming league with 18 schools across the state currently involved:
- Anderson High School
- Carmel High School
- Clinton Central High School
- Clinton Prairie High School
- Elkhart High School
- Elkhart Memorial High School
- Munster High School
- Kankakee Valley High School
- Kokomo High School
- Mississinewa High School
- Munster High School
- Noblesville High School
- Portage High School
- Rossville High School
- Salem High School
- Seeger Memorial Junior/Senior High School
- Tipton High School
- Western High School
With almost 30 kids on Tipton’s team, we decided to attend their first-ever match to see how it’s impacting them first-hand.
It is an epic sports match, but in this case, the controller is the key to victory.
“It reaches a different crowd that maybe doesn’t really want to play football,” said Robertson. “We’re getting everybody in the school involved in something.”
“Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” is one of six games kids can choose to compete in. The others are “Rocket League,” “League of Legends,” “Overwatch,” “Hearthstone,” and — of course — “Forza” because we’re in Indiana!
“Forza” is a series of competitive racing games available for Xbox consoles and Microsoft Windows. (Photo: Xbox)
“Hearthstone” is a digital collectible card game that builds upon the “Warcraft” series. (Photo: Blizzard Entertainment)
“League of Legends” is an online battle arena game seeking to destroy the opposing team’s “Nexus.” (Photo: Riot Games)
“Overwatch” is a multiplayer first-person shooter game in which players work together to secure and defend control points. (Photo: Blizzard Entertainment)
“Rocket League” is a vehicular soccer video game in which players use vehicles to hit a ball into the opponent’s goal. (Photo: Psyonix)
“Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” is the fifth installment in the popular crossover fighting series. (Photo: Nintendo)
“Communication, teamwork, leadership, determination, and working through adversity — those same intangibles we develop though team sports and competitions — they have the same home in Esports,” said Carmel High School’s Esports coach Dylan Gentilcore.
Robertson, Gentilcore, and Thompson’s common goal is to grow Esports to more schools across the state of Indiana.
“I’ve been able to tap into a group of students who haven’t really found their niche in the high school extracurricular ecosystem, and we can do that the same throughout every high school in Indiana,” said Gentilcore.
Robertson said Tipton students can’t have any F’s to qualify for the team and even encourages students to get their grades up if they have a D or C-, which gave sophomore Bryce Bogue an incentive to improve his academics.
“I was a failure student. I could barely pass any of my grades, but this program gave me a great opportunity to be able to improve,” said Bogue.
Gaming has also lifted Bogue’s spirits.
“I was a very anti-social person before this program so, doing this gave me friends,” Bogue said, “I could talk to people and have some equal footing.”
Tipton High School junior Carter Harrison, who’s also an acclaimed swimmer, helps lead the Esports team.
“It gives them a chance to actually letter in something, do what they want, something they might be good at,” said Harrison. “It gives them a chance to actually be part of the athletic curriculum.”
The 18 schools compete in the fall and spring and at the end of each season, there’s a ranking based on the team’s record.
Then, the playoffs follow to determine the state champion.
Most matches are played online and just like other sports, there are rules and regulations.
Matchups take place after school Tuesday through Friday with different games each night.
Robertson said he recently had an Esports member get nearly a full-ride to Davenport University for a combination scholarship for Esports and academics.
If you’re still skeptical about Esports, check out this report from NBC News.