Gateway creates esports club for students
The Gateway school board created an esports club for the district’s high school students.
Gateway proposed establishing the club, which will be headed by a staff member to be paid a $750 stipend by the Emerald Foundation each semester to manage the program.
The Emerald Foundation is a Lancaster-based nonprofit that in February received a $500,000 grant to launch a statewide esports program for high schools. The money was part of a $9.6 million state allocation for Gov. Tom Wolf’s PASmart initiative, which aims at enhancing STEM and Computer Science education.
Assistant Superintendent Dennis Chakey said the esports club, regulated by the North America Scholastic Esports Federation, would be available to students in ninth through 12th grades.
“It’s not just about the video games and just sitting and playing,” Chakey said at a board’s agenda-setting meeting Aug. 10. “This gives our students an opportunity to grow as entrepreneurs. They can do some things like comprehend and optimize the computers, learn about writing code, starting their own brand — all within the software agency.”
The club would be able to use existing equipment in the high school’s technology education department, said Mike Brown, the district’s director of technology.
“We have a workstation for 3D modeling … so they would use the same equipment. But we do have money budgeted to upgrade those systems,” Brown said.
As for which games students would play, Brown said those would be chosen based on which can provide the most educational value. For example, there is an educational version of the Minecraft video game, he said.
Brown said the club would likely utilize up to three different games that would focus on different educational topics.
Chakey said the content from the video games would be monitored to shield students from anything unsuitable for school.
The mechanics of Gateway’s esports club, such as who would manage it, which games students would play and who students would play against, are still up for discussion. But Chakey said students would be able to scrimmage other esports teams and enter tournaments.
“They can go do all kinds of different things while learning coding and computer software along the way,” he said.
Chakey said there are four educational themes he expects to be addressed through the program: strategy, content creation, business development and organization.
“Even thinking critically and developing their own brand. There’s just so many possibilities with this,” he said. The assistant superintendent said a curriculum is available through the Emerald Foundation, but that it would take this school year to tailor the program for Gateway students.
Until then, the club would likely be offered to students as an after-school activity. When the curriculum is ironed out, the club could be offered as a class during the school day.
Gateway joins Thomas Jefferson High School as the second school in Allegheny County with such a program, said James Roussel, the Emerald Foundation’s esports program coordinator.
He said there are 25 active NASEF clubs in Pennsylvania and 42 clubs on the East Coast.
Esports has had a professional-level presence in the area since 2017, when a pair of Pittsburghers founded the Pittsburgh Knights franchise. Since then, the esports franchise has partnered the Pittsburgh Steelers, rapper Whiz Khalifa and had several sponsorships.
Esports is estimated to have generated $1.1 billion in revenues worldwide so far in 2019, according to the market research firm Statista. About 453 million people have watched some form of esports this year. North American viewers made up about 12% of the total around the world.
Participating in esports — and being an esports spectator — is growing in popularity.
Around 100 million people used online streaming services to watch the 2018 world championships for the popular competitive game called League of Legends. By contrast, the 2018 Super Bowl had over 103 million total television viewers, according to data firm Nielsen.
Dillon Carr is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Dillon at 412-871-2325, [email protected] or via Twitter .