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Esports continues growth in third year
October 4, 2021
Escapists, nerds, gamers.
All of these terms are used to describe the patrons of what has become arguably one of the fastest-growing subcultures of the modern world.
Esports, a multi-billion dollar, endlessly-growing industry, has become one of the many ways that video game enjoyers can come together as a community. What started as a professional sport has become, like most others, a high school and college-level activity. At Rider, the esports team is heading into their third full year as a club.
“For us, at our level, esports is a way to include people in an organization that may never get involved in any other organization,” esports sponsor and science teacher Chris Preston said. “Yeah, we have some soccer players, we have some tennis players, we have some people in band.
“But a lot of the students that we actually target, their passion is gaming and things that relate to gaming. There’s never been an outlet for that type of student before, so they are the ones that get to sit in the corner and not be involved in anything.”
Rider’s esports team partakes mostly in online, computer-based (PC) games, such as League of Legends and Rocket League. They also include Nintendo Switch games like Smash Brothers and are seeking to add Splatoon 2 to their list, among others.
However, the organization is not just about winning tournaments and playing for recreation. As they enter this new season, Rider esports is seeking to educate the general public about the various careers that go on behind the scenes.
“So, when you look at esports, think about any sport out there,” Preston said. “There’s analysis of what they’re doing, you have real-time shoutcasting and colorcasting going on just like you do with announcers at a football game. All of that is happening at the same time.”
Personal trainers, team managers, agents and more are also involved in taking care of pro esports players. For the high school teams, however, the process is much simpler.
At Rider, the esports team is managed by their newly developed support staff.
“These 12 to 15 new students are focusing on that aspect of it — behind the scenes, if you will — of esports,” Preston said. “We’re making a student-led group with some supervision, that way they don’t do anything crazy.”
— Rider Esports (@ROHOesports) September 29, 2021
Composed of shoutcasters, colorcasters, graphic designers, website managers, social media managers and more, the organization has everything covered.
For most games played in Rider esports, there are two teams: varsity and JV. And like other sports, these teams have captains. Of these captains, some manage to stand out, even achieving global status in gaming skill, with the potential to play professionally.
“We have Landon Adkins, who is a grandchamp in Rocket League, which is one step down from the highest rank you can be,” Preston said. “He, quite literally, could step out and play professionally for money right now. He is good. The guys that are around him, they’re not that far off, they’re very nearly that rank themselves.”
With four state championships and a few runner-up wins, this organization demands adequate leadership. And as each game progresses, so do the teams.
“When you pass to your teammates or your teammates pass to you and you score, it’s such a good feeling knowing how in sync we are,” Adkins said. “Every play we make together the closer our bond grows somehow.”
Like any organization on campus, it will be affected by the closing of Rider High School, but Preston doesn’t expect much of an issue.
“We’re going to shift right over,” Preston said. “I’ve been in contact with the people downtown, and I asked them, ‘Did y’all look at getting esports on the new campus?’ And they’re like, ‘Don’t worry.’ I don’t know what that means, but I’m sure that we’re flowing right into that.”
Even so, the memories of games long past and friendships made will remain in Rider’s room 243. But, as the years pass and the organization grows, it shows no sign of diminishing. The future lies safely in the hands of its players and the ever-growing support staff.
“The students that are here, they’re the leaders,” Preston said. “They’re the ones that will make this happen next year. When we get new students in, they’re the ones that are training them how to play the games. It just passes on. We take that group with us and they continue. They’re just going to have to build a new program. The trophies just won’t say Rider anymore… and that’s OK.”