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Episode 88: Students Get Their Game Face On With Competitive Esports

It is a competitive sport that is taking off around the world with talk of being added to the 2024 Olympic games. We are talking about eSports, competitive video gaming that has high school students across Jordan School District signing up to take on teams from all over the State.

On this episode of the Supercast, find out how eSports is taking video gaming to a new level with competitive gameplay, challenging young minds and improving their mental, visual and physical coordination. eSports is even bringing students together in a community where they may find new careers.


Audio Transcription

Anthony Godfrey:
On this episode of the Supercast, find out how eSports is taking video gaming to a new level with competitive game play, challenging young minds and improving their mental, visual and physical coordination. E-sports is even bringing students together in a community where they may find new careers.

Let's start by talking to a competitive gamer and his coach. We are here at JATC North to talk about eSports. They have one of the premier eSports teams here in Jordan District. And we're here with a Dithea ,who is on the team and Amber Saffen, who is the coach for the team. The team just started this year and they're going to teach me all about it. Thanks for spending time with me today, guys.

Student:
Oh, thank you. Happy to be here.

Anthony Godfrey:
Alright. Tell me the description of what eSports is for those who are listening at home. And they just sat down their controller. They stopped playing Defender and Qbert, and now they want to know about eSports.

Student:
Alright. So basically for everyone that doesn't know about eSports, eSports is basically just any video game that is played competitively to the level where it's kind of a professional match. Most of you guys know traditional sports, like soccer, football, baseball, that everyone has small leagues. They play in Little Leagues, etc., but eSports is just like that, but with video games. So there are the professional leagues where like the NBA, NFL, for like specific sports. So each different video game is a different sport. So League of Legends, that's a type of different sport than Overwatch. Those are like different sports.

Anthony Godfrey:
So within Overwatch and League of Legends, there are different levels of play. Is that right?

Student:
That's completely correct. So basically, in the each game there are different rankings and different levels of play. The higher up you go, the more professional you are, just like that in any other sport. The higher and the better you are, the higher the leagues you'll be playing in.

Anthony Godfrey:
Alright. Coach Saffen, what level would we be competing in an eSport at the high school level?

Coach:
So just like you said, there are the different individual games with their individual rankings. Those rankings for an eSport player help determine your eligibility for those more professional leagues. The nice thing about having a District eSports team is that they can get that experience competing, but they're not restricted to that eligibility by ranking. We can have students who have never played a game before, or haven't built up that ranking and they can come and join the team. And we compete on a State level or a Regional level, depending on the eSport, depending on the game, and then those players want to continue to the professional league. Those would be based off their individual game rankings.

Anthony Godfrey:
So you can compete at the high school level without being ranked beyond that you have to be ranked. Is that correct?

Coach:
Yeah. So to compete at the professional level, the rankings do determine your eligibility.

Anthony Godfrey:
Okay. So how does this ranking happen? It's probably not like when I used to be ranked on Dig Dug because I had the highest score of the day and then they unplug it at night. And the next day I can, once again, work to be the highest score at Chuckie Cheese. This is more complex then?

Coach:
Yeah. That would upset a lot of professional league players, I'm sure. So basically, and you can correct me if I'm wrong since he's a pretty high ranking player himself, the season starts for a particular game and then those games count towards their ranking. So as they compete individually through the company, and that's a big difference between what you would call traditional sports and eSports is that in eSports you have kind of a third player that's the company that owns the game. They themselves determine things like how. Those rankings are all determined by League of Legends, the company's competition.

Anthony Godfrey:
Tell me about your ranking.

Student:
Okay. So I typically only play League of Legends. I am a gold player and I've peaked platinum in different seasons. So let me explain what this means. In the rankings, it starts from iron and it goes to bronze, silver, gold, platinum, diamond, masters, grandmasters, challenger. Challengers is top 500. So in each of those rankings, they have divisions to clearly show how skilled you are and how much game knowledge you actually have. And it just kind of shows what you are. So basically, starters would be around iron to bronze to silver. Those are the lower end league, those who just started the game,  just getting to know it. Gold to platinum is like, we're just getting better. I know the game a little more and I'm actually getting good. Then platinum to diamond is when I'm almost getting into the higher end where I'm getting really skilled and professional. And then masters to challengers, that's the full-on professional scene, that's where you can start getting into eSports.

Anthony Godfrey:
The professional level. Now I understand that you're an award-winner. Tell me what happened there.

Student:
So this was for shout-casting, which is just kind of talking over the game that's being played at an eSports game. So what I did was I color-casted and shout-casted, which is our play-by-play castings, two different types of castings on a specific match played in one of the professional leagues. And I placed for exceeding expectations and doing really well in the shout-casting.

Anthony Godfrey:
So where does shout-casting versus color-casting?

Student:
Okay. So color-casting is basically explaining the game and telling why a player did what they did and what's happening in the game. You're kind of the brains of the person. The play-by-play casting is usually telling you what's happening at the time.They're usually the ones that are like screaming, shouting, like kind of building up the hype of the moment of the game.

Anthony Godfrey
So the color-casting is just describing, now he's going to go to this move because that's the best way to kill an overt in the game. So there's color-casting, and then there is play by play and that's all part of the shout-casting. Do you have to shout it?

Student:
Um, it depends on your type of style. Some people, they try to make up the hype by raising their voice, or like starting to talk faster or they start wrapping, it's like super speed. Uh, it's really depends on your style.

Anthony Godfrey:
Exactly.

Anthony Godfrey:
Stay with us. When we come back, find out how competitive gaming is bringing students together in a supportive community and how the sport could lead to successful careers.

Break:
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Anthony Godfrey:
Now you said that you did commentary for some of the professional leagues. Are you watching something that has already taken place or are you doing it live?

Student:
Uh, for the competition I did, it had already taken place, but usually you do it live, so it's honestly, you don't have time to plan it out. If I were to do a video, I can obviously just look through it, planning out what to say. But when it's live, you don't know what you're trying to say. It's all on the spot.

Coach:
So we shot the live match between Mountain Ridge and Riverton High. And that was live and the struggles that come with that is if you get a tech issue, you kind of have to stall a sports announcer boy. If suddenly the game went away, they'd have to just talk and all that. Right? So it's that live broadcasting skillset. It's the same thing except with eSports.

Anthony Godfrey:
Okay. Well, let's get a little sample. Do you mind showing me how this works?

Student:
All right.

Anthony Godfrey:
Okay. So describe the setup first of all, before we begin.

Student:
Okay. So what we have is obviously on one monitor, we have the game running so we can see what's happening. And we also have a mic there so that when we can talk into the mic and see it. And we have another monitor to watch the stream labs. We can take in the voice and record it. So that's basically the usual setup for a shout-caster. Usually all you need is like mic and a monitor to see what's happening in the game.

Coach:
I think what's going to be really helpful here, just so you know what the game is going to look like, give you a little bit of prep. The first section will be what's called the bans and the picks. So bans and the picks. Each team is going to alternate between picking their character that they're gonna play and banning the other team from picking a character that way. And so this is a very strategic part of the match. So what you can do while this is happening, you can ask a DP about why they're picking and banning these because he knows all the reasons why they would pick or ban, those characters. I'm going to start as halfway through the pixel bands because it can sometimes take a while. So that way you can get in. Do you think you can kind of explain what's going on and then pick up from there? So I'm going to hit record here.

Student:
So basically, we're in the middle of picks and bans. If I were to be shout-casting right now, I would be telling the people watching, as an entertainer, what they're banning, why they're banning this, what they're picking, why they're picking this and all the stuff like that. So right now, the blue side, which is the one on the left, they are currently banning or they're choosing to ban someone and they're thinking, oh they just banned Lylia, which is just a jungler. The only reason they banned Lylia was because the red side or the other enemy team didn't pick the jungler. They were thinking, so let's band another jungler he doesn't get one.

Anthony Godfrey:
That's like doing the NFL draft, but being able to tell people who they can't have, and not just picking who you can.

Student:
Exactly. So now that we got into the game, you can kind of see the lanes here. If you can see, this is top lane over here. This is just a map by the way.

Anthony Godfrey:
So you know a lot about this.

Student:
Yes.

Anthony Godfrey:
Okay. Let's hear a little shout-casting.

Student:
Okay. So we're three minutes in, and we're looking at the bot lane right now, nothing's happening so far. We're just getting into the game bot lane. Just sound are con going into, sorry, jumping in, getting the cue onto the silver, silver, getting low, but just has to walk away. Leona kind of got tacked on at your son is running away realizing that she has no, each piece is different. Kind of it gets that damage and double flash from bottling killing, uh, Susana. First of all, added to silver. That was a really well played by the juggler are invited from bottling, from flapjack and Wolfie. Now cat was getting attacked by the jungler and ADC. Catlin has to run away realizing that he might die as flush away. Now a gold lead side of the, just one cable lead for two Tulay, uh, not too big of a lead, but thick enough to say that it's going pretty well in the early game. CS wise, a lot of, uh, good CS, four to LA. They're getting a lot of gold and got a lot of experience. And from now on the game will go pretty slow. So

Anthony Godfrey:
Just for contrast, to show what a nice job you did, I'm going to try shout-casting. Okay. All right. Let's give it a shot. All right. We have the green fairy that's walking along with a cape. It seems to be feathers. She's distracted walking off into the brush. We have lots of minions. They have red hoods. All their hoods are red. They're walking and shooting red dots at the blue guys and the blue guys, boy two on three, they seem to be taking it. Someone's walking in a bubble. Now back to you.

Speaker 2:
Good job. That was a really good.

Anthony Godfrey:
I'm going to test you here. I'm going to try to connect to the audience out there. We have a lot of parents that listen, and some of them play Candy cCush. Are you familiar with Candy crush?

Student:
I've heard
of it, but never really played it.

Anthony Godfrey:
Okay. Well let me explain it. And then I want you to do some color-commentary or some shout-casting of my Candy Crush game. What I'm trying to do is match up candies. When you match them up, they disappear and they do various things on here.

Student:
Um, so he's moving into the red candy you're going in and getting the three. You're getting popping, everything, getting four in a row, the blue candy getting four on the none, the purple hitting for many, I don't know what's happened with so many candies are bursting everywhere and he's bursting everywhere. So what you're trying to see here, he's just trying to get as many numbers as he can on the board getting so many blocks down and down and getting all this four in the rows, doing so much damage to the board, exploding everywhere. So you know what? Candy crush never seemed so fun.

Anthony Godfrey:
Good job. All right. Is this something you want to continue after high school?

Student:
Oh, definitely. II am actually considering doing this as a career, if possible. I know it's really hard to get into, but from all the videos and all the stuff I've watched from other casters, professional casters, they just keep saying to keep following your dream and keep pushing to do it. And the more you do it, the more practice you'll get and the more people will see you. And if more people see you, there'll be say, "Oh, I want this guy to cast for me."

Anthony Godfrey:
Yeah, that's exciting. That's great.

Coach:
And I think it's a really great thing that as the District started this up, because we were able, through items have a shout-casting class that students were able to do. And through that, that's one of the ways Dithea got connected to the competition, and connected to some of the coaches at the college level. They teach that pathway to the career. We watched interviews with some professional shout-casters who talked about how to get there. It's really nice that at the high school level, we can now take a student who wants to take this beyond a hobby to something at a professional level and be able to teach them the steps to how to actually do that.

Anthony Godfrey:
So this really can be a launching pad for a career and for a scholarship and for pursuing this further.

Coach:
Absolutely. As much as I love video games, just as a consumer and a gamer, it's the eSports aspect of how this can help the students in the future. that really interests me as a teacher. So being able to have students get that scholarship money at the next level. I mean, eSports, as an entertainment industry, is getting really big. So the colleges are offering money for players who can play and shout-casters who can shout-cast to make them entertaining for the people watching the college level games.

Anthony Godfrey:
Tell me, what would you say to students who are considering being part of an eSports team?

Coach:
I would say, go try out at your local high school. TI wouldn't worry too much about your level. Everyone's going to start. I had a lot of players say, I wasn't sure I was going to be good enough for the team. And then they come in and have a really great time. And then going on to the college level, you need that ability of working with a team that you're not able to get from at home. So if you're looking to be an eSports professional player, come find your local eSports team so you can get that team experience rather than just your solo ranking at home. You need that to kind of buff your resume in a way, when you go on to college and want to join those colleges.

Anthony Godfrey:
Cami Taylor oversees eSports for the District. Cami, what is it like among coaches?

Cami:
Yeah. I appreciate having the chance to brag about the amazing people who run our school programs. Everyone who runs the high school program is a teacher and a coach. This is a volunteer thing that they signed up for with no expectation of what we would or wouldn't make out of it. So we meet at least once a month, but usually twice a month. And we just talk about what works, what doesn't work, how can we make this better? I have to brag about our schools. We have a program at our seven high schools, so they'll give you who are listening and want to join, there is one at your school. You should definitely be a part of it. In our first year, we had three teams qualify for state. We had a detail you've been on this podcast play second and shout shoutcasting for the State. So to be a brand new club who only played one season, I think that we are doing a really amazing job and that's because of our coaches and the way they communicate with each other.

Anthony Godfrey:
Okay. We've had a really fast start. Tell me about how quickly membership, just mushroomed.

Cami:
Yeah, so it's been fascinating to watch. I know there's pent up demand. We have had a lot of students who want to play. We just started this in January of this year and we started competing in February. So to have done all of that in a short five months is really impressive. We currently have 120 kids on our roster and that's just for one season. And some schools only played one game. Amber Saffen, who you met today, she coaches three different games. So this coach is here every night of the week until 9:00. Think about that. She's taught all day and then does this as well. So do all of our other coaches at the high schools. They are managing this, spending time with the students. In fact, we recently met together as coaches and some of them said, I won't know what to do with all my free time ow that we've worked and the season just ended.

Anthony Godfrey:
I do appreciate all of that time and effort because it allows students to connect in a unique way that just hasn't been available previously. And I think we reach more students that way. And that's always the call. Thank you for your oversight at the District level and your help getting this up and running, really from scratch. And to those coaches who have had that going and are now all in. We're excited.

Cami:
Yeah. Thank you. And thank you to our School Board who supported us. I know that was an ask up at the beginning. We want to make sure we thank the local administration who supports their schools, the School Board who supports us. Your support obviously is very important. So we really feel welcomed and excited about this new platform.

Anthony Godfrey:
Well, good things are ahead. Thanks everybody. Thanks for joining us on another episode of the Supercast. Remember, education is the most important thing you'll do today. We'll see out there.

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