The two teams made up of orcs, dragons, vikings, serpents and other virtual characters battled in front of a screaming crowd Saturday for the chance to win the first-ever Orange County High School Esports League championship.
After nearly two hours of intense battles in the online strategy game League of Legends, the team from Fountain Valley High School defeated the La Quinta High team from Westminster to clinch the crown at the Esports Arena in downtown Santa Ana.
Saturday’s championship round was the culmination of the county’s first high school e-sports league, which launched in January with 38 teams. Through the league, teams competed against each other weekly in the game League of Legends, a team-oriented strategy game set in mystical forests where competitors select avatars with unique fighting skills. These characters range from sword-wielding warriors to sorcerers that cast spells on opponents.
Fountain Valley’s team went undefeated throughout the season. The school won a $2,500 cash prize. La Quinta High won $1,000 for placing second.
“This first season exceeded all our initial expectations,” said Gerald Solomon, executive director of the Samueli Foundation, a co-founder of the league. “This tournament was more than just gaming. Students learned communications skills, and how to work and strategize together as teams. It emphasized the social-emotional learning aspect of education.”
In coming years, league organizers plan to more strongly emphasize the science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, piece of gameplay by adding college prep coursework as part of the competition. Another goal, Solomon said, is to encourage more girls to participate in the league, which this season was made up primarily of boys.
The program is a collaboration funded by the Samueli Foundation in partnership with OCDE, Orange County STEM Initiative, Connected Camps, UCI Connected Learning Lab, UCI Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences, UCI Esports, UCI Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Alvarez & Marsal.
Orange County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Al Mijares stood among the cheering crowd Saturday.
“Programs like the Orange County High School Esports League are examples of how schools can better adapt to prepare students for the changing workforce demands,” he said. “We don’t know yet what all the jobs of tomorrow will look like. What we do know is that many of the skills students learn through the league, including those focused on technology and character, can translate into a wide variety of careers, especially for those jobs of the future.”