In the inaugural season of Orange County’s esports league, local high schoolers battled it out weekly in the online action-strategy game League of Legends.
Well, officials have announced a new game for the upcoming tournament organized by the expanded North America Scholastic Esports Federation.
Overwatch, released in 2016 by Blizzard Entertainment, is the choice for the fall season that starts Oct. 8. The deadline for schools to sign up is Sept. 28. (Future tournaments and deadlines will be announced at later dates.)
Funded by Samueli Foundation with support from OCDE and other partners, the esports league was launched in Orange County last year to help teens connect their interests to real-world learning.
About 40 teams from 25 high schools participated in the pilot. In addition to promoting communication, collaboration and social-emotional skills, career-focused workshops incorporated engineering, technology and entrepreneurship while helping participants improve their gameplay.
NASEF’s executive committees decided Overwatch was a good fit for the next round of tournament play after reviewing feedback from the first year. Officials say the game checks a number of boxes, offering diverse heroes, educational value and developer support. It doesn’t hurt that it’s also popular among gamers, with more than 40 million players worldwide.
“We were looking for an esports title that had legitimacy with high school students as well as competitive college and professional teams,” said Tom Turner, who is NASEF’s chief education officer and OCDE’s STEM director. “We also wanted a game that called out the skills for overall student success like communication, collaboration and critical thinking.”
In addition to the Samueli Foundation and the Orange County Department of Education, the North America Scholastic Esports Federation is led by OC STEM, Connected Camps, Connected Learning Lab, UCI Esports, the UCI Henry Samueli School of Engineering and the UCI Bren School of Information and Computer Science.
For more information on the North America Scholastic Esports Federation, visit www.esportsfed.org.