Waikato Uni first to host national high school esports competition
Esports continues to be an activity that largely takes place under the radar of mainstream attention, despite huge participation in New Zealand and around the world. Waikato University is alive to its potential however, and is this week hosting the New Zealand High School League of Legends Championships.
More than 60 teams from 35 schools have signed up to compete in the online competition, which sees the university partnering with Rio Games - the makers of the esports game League of Legends.
Following a week of league rounds there will be an online knock-out tournament, with the grand final taking place on August 15. The successful Kiwi team will then head to Australia to play in the ANZ Championships against an Australian state champion.
While Covid-19 has meant the competition has been delayed, the whole online nature of esports provides the kind of flexibility that traditional sports don't. That's according Tom Featonby, Manager of the OMEN Esports Arena at the university. The Arena opened in August last year and is the first university-based esports facility in the country.
"The lockdown and the level restrictions have had very little impact on our league for the most part. We have continued to engage with schools to get them signed up and ready to play," Featonby says.
"Whether the students play from home or at school, the vast majority of the positives of competing remain, such as communication, cooperation, comradery, teamwork, leadership, school pride and socialisation."
He also points out that esports were a way in which people could stay connected during lockdown. "With our partnership with PingZero, we were able to run numerous Rocket League tournaments which were very well attended. This showed not only the strength of esports as a whole, but also the community surrounding it in New Zealand."
Another esport initiative, the 2degrees Esports Scholarship for School Leavers, has now been awarded for the second time. Further cementing the university's commitment to the sport.
As discussed in Techblog last year, the rise of esports and alternative entertainment channels is where the smart money is going. Two New Zealand players competed the Fortnite World Cup tournament in New York, and despite coming last in their section, they still managed to earn $50,000.
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