When we first chatted to Tyrone Green, founder and chairman of the High School Esports League, he told us they were “still figuring things out as [they] go along.” Five months down the line, though, they’ve hit a pretty remarkable milestone: Partnering with VS Gaming to host the LAN finals of their CS:GO and Dota 2 leagues at Comic Con on the weekend of 15 September 2018.
If that wasn’t enough to get excited about (GLHF: We think it totally is, but we love added extras.), not only will the 2018 HSEL finals be held at Comic Con this month, but VS Gaming and the HSEL are teaming up to deliver a bigger and better league over the course of 2019 as well.
“It’s definitely a step forward in the right direction. Schools haven’t had the platform before to compete against each other week-in, week-out. There were no leagues as such that were formalised, and you didn’t know if you were playing against professionals or school learners.
VS Gaming, in providing us with a platform to perform and compete, adds a sense of validation to what we have been doing already. VS Gaming were very accommodating, and we felt that having them behind our name would create a bit of a buzz.
There are still a couple of things to work out before we officially start the league. VS Gaming, and especially Johann von Backström, are very open to new ideas and making sure that everyone is happy. Both parties are willing to explore new opportunities and create, I suppose, a grassroots Esports League in South Africa.”
After those few kinks are ironed out, this could very well signal the beginning of something much bigger than an external esports league that only involves school teams.
We could be witnessing the first steps along the journey towards one of Tyrone and the HSEL’s major goals: Esports recognised as an official school sport, complete with structured leagues and established clubs across multiple schools throughout the country.
“I think there are quite a number of schools open to the idea of having esports as an official sport, but there is just the issue of finding a way to fit it in alongside everything else. Schools require a framework to operate in and be able to play against other schools. We had this running, very unofficially, and we needed a way to organise and play our matches each week.
Fortunately for us, VS Gaming came along and offered a helping hand. Hopefully now that the HSEL has partnered with VS, we will see schools that are more willing to commit. Having the teams play at Comic Con will definitely help us attract more schools and hopefully the learners will take notice and push their teachers into starting an esports club. That’s how I ended up here, after all.”
And we’re so very glad you did end up here. Maybe one day we’ll decide to have children of our own, and if they happen to get involved in esports as a school sport (GLHF: Let’s get real, they will be getting involved.), we’ll know exactly who to thank when we’re spectating our kids fragging each other on the school’s Twitch channel on a Saturday morning, all without even having to get out of bed.
“Can you imagine an esports derby day between two major schools taking place the same weekend as the rugby and soccer?
This year we had the Westville Boys’ High teams travel up to Jeppe Boys to play against them. Of course we could have done it online, but it gave both schools an excellent chance to showcase their clubs to not only the learners, but also to staff.
We had the Jeppe Boys headmaster, Mr Dale Jackson, come down to the computer labs to see what was happening. The learners were mightily impressed that the headmaster, of all people, would pay them a visit. The value that esports can add to the school lives of those learners who don’t necessarily excel at traditional sports is immeasurable.”
That does seem like a pretty peachy future to us. But before we get ahead of ourselves (GLHF: “Too late!”, they cried.), let’s slow down and take a look at the value the partnership with VS Gaming is already offering the HESL. The LAN finals at Comic Con later this month will share the limelight with the VS Gaming Championships and Masters finals, allowing the students to rub shoulders with some of the best gamers in the country in their respective games.
“It’s such a great opportunity for the learners. Some of them are already part of some VS Gaming Open Division (Ladder) teams, but this is definitely a chance for them to be noticed. Hopefully some of the pros will have a look at some of our matches.
But, to be honest, it’s more about exposing these learners to the professionalism and the expertise the more experienced teams have to offer. I think our players will definitely learn a lot and I’m sure the teachers looking after them will as well – including me!”
One thing we’ll certainly be learning over the Comic Con weekend is who the best Dota and CS:GO schools in the country are. In the CS:GO finals we’ll see Paul Roos Gymnasium, Westville Boys’ High School, and Parklands College going head to head; with the Dota finals showcasing the best players from Oakhill School, Westville and Paul Roos.
We did press Tyrone for an honest, unbiased prediction of the winners, and he managed to keep his wits about him under the pressure, supplying us with a diplomatic, humble answer the likes of which a few professional sports managers could learn from.
“As the Westville Esports MIC, I back my teams. However, Paul Roos are going to be tough to beat on the CS:GO side while I am sure Parklands and Oakhill will want revenge against Westville’s Dota team after the qualifying tournament.
Definitely in the CS:GO part of the tournament, pride is at stake. Paul Roos is definitely the team to beat. Parklands and Westville have had to play catch-up ever since they entered the fray this year.”
We’re pretty damn excited to know that school esports is starting to gain a legitimate foothold, and can’t wait to see how this tournament takes the movement forward. As for the specifics of the tournament, keep a look out for more information as the logistics are confirmed in the lead up to the weekend.
“Not all of the details have been finalised yet. The matches start at 9am on the 15th and will go (potentially) well into the night as each round will be a best of 3. I’ll be chatting to Robert Hart from VS Gaming about this a little later in the week.
From what I have gathered from Robert, the competition will be taking place in the general LAN area. I am sure all the teams will be wearing their school colours during the day, so that may be something to look out for.”
And finally, with the victors of the HESL, VS Gaming Championships, and VS Gaming Masters finals being crowned on the same weekend and in the same building, it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to start talks of a showmatch between the champions leagues, would it?
“I highly doubt the winners of the HSEL finals will have a problem with this idea! Although, we wouldn’t want to embarrass them…”
By “them” he means the Masters teams, of course.