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Forestville sees big wins with eSports

FORESTVILLE — As each student in the Forestville Central School district began receiving their own personal Chromebooks, the need for traditional computer labs at the school was effectively no more. Forestville’s Director of Technology and Communications Mike Murphy saw an opportunity to turn one of those old computer labs into a new kind of computer lab: an eSports lab.

Located on the second floor of the high school, this six-computer room is outfitted with top end computers, gaming chairs, headsets, and controllers for students to use to compete against other schools in the area and even around the country, which are all run through Erie 2-BOCES.

The primary game played is Rocket League, a soccer-like game played with cars, but Murphy said they’re working to add League of Legends for high schoolers and Minecraft for middle schoolers so that kids can explore all avenues of strategy. One of the strengths of Rocket League is the communication and teamwork skills it builds.

“One of the skills they’re learning is teamwork,” Murphy said. “They have to work with each other to play the game, and they do. They work together as a team.”

Students participating in the eSports club are treated like any other athlete. In order to participate, they have to maintain their status as a good school citizen, meaning they have to keep up on their homework and keep their grades up. In return, students who didn’t have a true home at Forestville finally have their chance to shine.

“We wanted to be able to get a place for students who didn’t have a place,” he said.

“They weren’t in the music department, they weren’t in sports, they weren’t into anything. They were just out there looking for something, and that’s what we got. When we went to do signups, we didn’t tell them to sign up, they just came in and that’s the group of students we actually got.”

Currently, there are 15 students participating, and while there are only six computers in the lab, Murphy said it could pretty easily be expanded to 12 should the school get extra funding and if the demand for the club increases.

In their matches against other schools, Forestville was undefeated, which is only icing on the cake of the whole club. Murphy and School Counselor Melissa Press, who oversees the club afterschool on Tuesdays and Thursdays, had no idea what they were signing up for, and on top of everything else, are blown away at the skill the kids have at the game.

“We have one of our students state ranked, and it shows,” said Murphy. “They are kicking butt. I can’t believe how good they are… It is unbelievable.”

In addition to inclusion and incentive to keep grades up, there are also pathways to college through this club, as more and more colleges offer scholarships for their eSports teams.

“More scholarships are available for eSports than there are for regular athletics,” said Murphy. “And students are getting them. Once kids go into college, they have something at the colleges to do.”

This program began at Forestville a only a couple months ago, but it has taken off and only seems like it’ll grow. While they have had to spend much of this year playing catchup, Murphy said they will be ready to go right when the season starts next fall.

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