Gamers rise up: CIF adds esport competitions that allow video gamers to test their skills

Nathan To, Guest Writer

For the first time in Bear Creek history, sports will be played not on a court or field, but behind the screen of a computer.
The California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) is planning to add esports, or competitive video gaming, as an officially recognized sport in the 19-20 school year. The CIF and Lodi Unified School District have already demonstrated their support for esports, and have facilitated the launch of the district’s first official esports team at Tokay High School earlier this school year. The Tokay esports team competed in several matches and tournaments that were sponsored by the CIF.
“The CIF has started the wider conversation with other California schools to expand [esports] from exhibition to one of the canon sports in the CIF,” Bear Creek Athletic Director Jason Johnson said.
Bear Creek is already no stranger to the world of competitive gaming as it houses an informal esports organization of its own: the Esports Club. Every Friday, Esports Club meets in the presentation room, and its 16 members play video games together.
“[Esports Club is] for people who want to make friends,” Vice President of Esports Club, Lucas Bingham, a senior, said. “A lot of people enjoy esports… [the club] is a great way to bring people together with a common interest.”
Esports Club is advised by math, programming, and robotics teacher Jamiel Khan, who is actively involved with Johnson in plans for the addition of esports to the roster of available sports. Khan fully supports the implementation of esports, since it will present an opportunity for more students to compete in team sports.
“[Esports gives you] that camaraderie, and the feeling of being in a competition, and hearing people cheering you on, that maybe they wouldn’t be able to do otherwise,” Khan said.
However, an obstacle Esports Club faces is its current inability to download games on the computers in the presentation room. Since games cannot be downloaded due to the district’s restrictions on school computers, the club is limited to games that can be run off of a flash drive, or games on consoles such as Xbox or Nintendo Switch.
“No PC games are played, so League of Legends, Counter Strike, and all those games that we wanted to play, and could bring out more people [to Esports Club], we aren’t able to play,” sophomore Christian Luchetta said.
This limitation would have to be addressed if Bear Creek were to host esports, since most games that are typically played at esports competitions such as League of Legends or Overwatch need to be downloaded. However, getting the video games onto the school computers is a long and strenuous process that requires district approval.
“There is a series of steps [to download a game], you have to find the program, find if there’s any copyright or if it’s free, and if it is free, you have to get specific documents that state that’s it’s free, create a request ticket for the download, [send the ticket to the district], and then it starts up the chain at technology,” Bear Creek Technology Coordinator Joyce Dedeni said.
Once the district approves of the request to download video games, district tech experts can download the games directly onto the school computers, and the presentation room would be a suitable venue for esports to be hosted at Bear Creek.
“This computer lab is pretty state of the art, so it can handle quite a bit,” Khan said. “Even the graphics cards in these computers are good.”
Since the computer lab contains sufficient technology for competitive gaming, purchasing new technology would most likely not be necessary, so adding and maintaining esports would be financially manageable for Bear Creek.
“Travel is limited… Bear Creek could compete against a school in Rochester, NY, for example, all through the web,” Johnson said. “The cost to operate the sport should be minimal, as I don’t believe we need to hire officials.”
While it has not been confirmed whether or not esports teams will be co-ed or divided into boys and girls divisions, the sport will definitely be open to all genders. With the district’s current plan to add esports next school year, esports will soon be available for any Bear Creek students looking to join the competitive gaming community and rise up to the challenge of video game competitions.