CAST everything you know about gaming out of your mind – chances are you have the wrong idea.
Wodonga Senior Secondary College student Willem Manley is the organiser of the Northeast School Esports Championships – a first of its kind tournament for the Border, which will see students from six schools competing in three games – FIFA 19, Rocket League and League of Legends.
The year 12 student, who himself is an avid competitive gamer and tournament organiser, is hoping to challenge a few misconceptions about gaming with next week’s championships, which will be hosted by WSSC starting next Monday.
With esports, you can have a year seven girl smashing a year 12 guy – it’s purely about skill, it crosses gender lines, all sorts of barriers.Willem Manley
For Mr Manley, esports and gaming provide a level playing field for all unmatched by traditional sports.
“Some students are physically incapable of playing some sports – whether they’re in a wheelchair or affected by some other physical disability,” he said.
“Others simply might not like sport, or drop out of it as they get older.
“With esports, you can have a year seven girl smashing a year 12 guy – it’s purely about skill, it crosses gender lines, all sorts of barriers.”
What began as a simple idea has morphed into a large scale tournament, complete with gaming headsets supplied by Hyper-X and trophies and medals sponsored by local McDonalds stores, where Mr Manley works.
Between 25 and 35 people are set to compete in each of the three games.
FIFA 19 is, as the name suggests, a soccer game, while Rocket League is a wild spin on the same theme – think soccer with cars.
League of Legends is the most complex of the three titles, but fundamentally involves two teams of five players working to destroy the other’s home base, or ‘nexus’.
Both worldwide and in Australia, esports have built up fanbases and viewership that often exceeds that of major sporting events, such as the NFL's Superbowl or the NBA Finals.
YouGov statistics show more than four million Australians watched an esports event in 2017.
“It's important to show what esports and gaming actually is, I think there is some stigma about it,” Mr Manley said.
“If we engage with students positively, hopefully we can expand in the future.”