A pretty sizeable chunk of the word count on Good Luck Have Fun is dedicated to talking about growing the South African esports scene. But we tend to focus our attention on the boys and girls at the tippity top of their games and not on those who are only just beginning their esports journeys.
Now there’s nothing wrong with that, our local esports stars have earned their time in the sunshine and they deserve to be celebrated and talked about. But long before they wielded their mice, keyboards and controllers like Kratos wields axes and swords or like Casanova wielded his…charm, they were school kids dreaming about being professional gamers.
And that’s what we’re focusing our attention on today, the school kids who will be the next generation of esports stars in South Africa. They are the future fan base and player base we are always saying South African esports needs to grow to reach its full potential.
For the children
Thanks to a wonderful new craze called social listening, (GLHF: We’re not making this up, it’s a real thing where you spend ages just staring at social media channels for news.), we discovered the High School Esports League (HSEL) and got in touch with its founder and administrator, Westville Boys High School teacher Tyrone Green, who told us how it all began.
“The High School Esports League is made up of several schools that are affiliated to MSSA. It is a platform that allows schools to have set fixtures against one another.
As MSSA does not provide fixtures for schools, the educators in charge of each school club felt it worthwhile to set up our own. While not every school that is affiliated with MSSA has joined us, there are enough schools participating that make it worthwhile.
While they (the MSSA) do provide a platform for schools to compete, it is considered too restricting. The HSEL is not moving away from MSSA, but rather running parallel with the organisation to ensure as many schools take part in competitive esports. The MSSA does provide some form of assistance at grassroot level, it is not considered enough by the schools involved.”
Typically we would make a joke here, but we only post one article a week as it is, if the MSSA served us with a gagging order we wouldn’t even be able to do that. So let’s rather just move along.
After school esports
There are currently 17 schools competing in the league across a variety of games: CS:GO, League of Legends, DotA2, FIFA18 (PS4), Hearthstone, and to a lesser extent Overwatch, Vainglory and Tekken7. Not bad going for a league that’s only been around for a few months. They’re still a small outfit, but the room for growth is what’s getting us all excited.
“As far as I can tell, the support has been good. We have a (very) small following on Facebook, perhaps because we do not post as often as we would like to. The learners have taken a particular interest as they now have fixtures to look forward to every week, rather than sitting and waiting for something to happen.
I have not seen any negative comments after posting our results and ladders, etc to gaming related Facebook pages, so I like to think that is a good thing. I feel that most people who game are fairly supportive of what we are trying to accomplish.”
But here is the part that gets us the most excited.
“There is no long-term goal as yet. We are still figuring things out as we go along.”
Not that, obviously.
“If I had to name something. I would say having esports recognised as an official school sport would definitely be the goal of most schools.”
There it is. Can you imagine being able to compete in video games at school? Not after sports, after homework, after dinner, and before bed, but as part of your schooling! Take us to that glorious future.
Right now there are 17 schools involved, that’s a tiny percentage of the total that could be involved. Imagine the growth the local esports scene will see when more embrace it. Eventually we’ll have thousands of players coming out of schools every year who already have competitive gaming experience and will want to compete at a higher level. And they’ll be avid viewers of esports, so the audience grows too. The potential! We can’t even! Breathe.
We’re excited, not sure if you can tell. So, where to next for the HSEL?
“The LAN element is something we have discussed informally. If we find that we are successful this year then perhaps a plan could be made to host a school LAN. However, the costs involved would be tremendous and schools are not always willing to help out financially (yet!). We would need some very serious sponsors to pull-off such an event.
Expanding the HSEL would take more staff than we have available. The educators that help with the running of the HSEL do not always have the time to bring in new ideas. We do try our best, but I feel it is best that we get the basics right before we think of expanding the divisions and having a finals LAN, etc. I am sure every school and learner would be supportive of LAN finals once we are able to organise one.
We would, of course, welcome any school into the HSEL. We are always looking to set up fixtures for games that become popular. The HSEL does have different divisions for the more popular games (CS:GO and League of Legends) in that there is a full-on competitive group for each game consisting of 10 teams, and then more casual semi-competitive groups below. Those teams placed in the lower groups will be able to challenge the bottom teams of the competitive group in a relegation series. This is there to prevent teams from cancelling last-minute and allowing those teams, who want to, to take the HSEL seriously.
I would also love to see the winners of the HSEL competitive groups take on some of the professional teams in RSA.”
Mettlestate, meet the HSEL. HSEL, meet Mettlestate – our personal favourite tournament organiser for show matches and creative events. Unfortunately, most of the schools don’t have fast enough internet lines to enable smooth streaming, so we can’t watch them on a weekly basis. An event on the Mettle-stage where the top schools teams get to test themselves against, and learn from, some of our pro teams would be very watchable. Maybe partner with CNA and do a back to school special? (GLHF: We’re full of good ideas like this, just hit us up if you need some more.)
That subhead is very misleading, because we actually have to say a huge thank you to Joshua ‘Nobody’ Bott, captain of the Westville Boys High School CS:GO first team, for making this whole article possible and helping us shine a light on an initiative that is well worth being lit, as the kids would say.
While we were talking to Nobody, the aforementioned student and captain, not ‘nobody’ like we were talking to ourselves, he gave us the student perspective on the HSEL.
“Students may not enjoy physical sports at school, such as rugby or hockey. It gives them another option for an extracurricular in their school time as long as the school recognises it like any other sport or club.
I feel that the High Schools Esports League helps young players create connections with other players who play at a similar or higher level than themselves. This enables them to learn from others and better themselves in their respective games. The Schools League allows individuals to show that they have the ability to compete at the top levels of CS:GO in South Africa. This allows teams in the DGL to scout young and upcoming talent to add to their current rosters and give them more experience at a higher level of CS:GO.”
The two things Nobody mentioned there are both major things that would help the South African esports scene grow. Gaming and esports being widely acknowledged and embraced by schools. And school players having a path they can follow to the top esports organisations in the country, much like traditional sports men and women have a path they can follow to the top. Once we get those things right, local esports is in for one hell of a growth spurt. (GLHF: School boy pun, classic.)
The High School Esports League is hopefully a step towards that wonderful future.