Esports gaining momentum in northwest Arkansas high schools

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LINCOLN, Ark. (KNWA) — Competitive gaming in local high schools is gaining momentum across northwest Arkansas.

The world of competitive gaming, known as esports, has now reached more than 60 schools across the state.

According to PlayVS, the company that brings varsity esports to high schools across the country, the waitlist is over 13,000 schools long.

Seniors Keagan Thorpe and Blake Young spend their Monday’s at practice, and Tuesdays and Thursdays at games.

But they’re not playing on the field, instead online for Lincoln’s esports team.

“Especially for a small town like Lincoln, having a program like this shows our school is stepping up,” Thorpe said.

Matt Hudgens coaches the team of 15 students after successfully launching the program in the spring of 2018.

The games offered are League of Legends and Rocket League.

“If a school can offer an avenue that can help bring a kid in and feel apart of a school, then I’m all for it,” Hudgens said. “It helps give them something to be passionate about. Instead of going home and creating their own world, they’re able to bring the world into school and make it apart of their school experience — which helps excite them about school.”

While players don’t communicate with the other team during a game, Hudgens says there are plenty of skills learned.

“We put them in a controlled environment where we teach them how to interact respectfully with other students and manage communication, so I think there is a huge benefit there,” he said.

And its not just all fun and games.

More than 200 colleges and universities are offering almost $10 million in gaming scholarships.

It’s something Thorpe hopes to be apart of as he pursues a degree in computer engineering.

He explains, “it’s been an influence for sure. I do enjoy coding. That’s one of the things I would like to do. There’s a lot of things involved in that behind-the-scenes.”

The University of Arkansas is also competing on a national level.

It created it’s own esports team last November.

Bentonville and Springdale High Schools also have their own teams.

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