New Zealand's first high school eSports league kicks off with 50 teams video


The New Zealand High School eSports League kicks off this week with over 50 teams across the country taking part.

Just what exactly constitutes a sport?

While purists around the world debate the question, the video gaming community in New Zealand isn't wasting any time waiting for an answer.

The New Zealand High School eSports League kicked off this week with more than 250 students taking to their mouse and keyboards in a 50-team competition that will span more than 12 weeks.

Clinton Muldoon from Auckland Grammar playing in the Grand Final at the New Zealand Gaming Championships in 2016.

Clinton Muldoon from Auckland Grammar playing in the Grand Final at the New Zealand Gaming Championships in 2016.

High school teams from Auckland, Bay of Plenty/Waikato, Wellington, and the South Island will play League of Legends, one of the world's most popular computer game titles, with the winner crowned New Zealand's national champions.

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Auckland schools include Mount Albert Grammar, Mount Roskill Grammar, ACG Senior College, Kings College and Western Springs College.

The competition, set up by Let's Play Live on behalf of the New Zealand eSports Federation, will be the biggest high school league in Australasia, and those involved are adamant that eSports deserves recognition and respect from the rest of the sporting community.

Let's Play Live managing director John McCrae said the biggest challenge was convincing Sport New Zealand that it was a sport.

"We have to go through a period of advocating the pros with Sport New Zealand and that it should be recognised as a sporting activity," McCrae said.

"How is darts or shooting or someone riding a horse around a track a sport, versus something where you have a team of five people with a coach, who are practising on a regular basis, who are mentally and physically applying themselves in a competition?"

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However, Sport New Zealand said it's not its prerogative to determine what constitutes a sport.

"Sport NZ do not make the call to either recognise or not recognise an activity as a sport," it said in a written statement.

"Our current role is to decide if the activity satisfies the investment criteria and whether the activity aligns with Sport NZ's strategic goals."

It said it was yet to receive an application to consider from the New Zealand eSports Federation.

According to a study in Germany, the pulse of an eSport athlete can reach heights similar to that of a marathon runner.

They also utilise exceptional motor skills, achieving up to 400 movements per minute on their keyboard or mouse.

In terms of its global brand, eSports is making a push to be included in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, as well as the 2024 Summer Olympics.

The viewership figures for the final of the League of Legend world championships last year was 36 million - compared to 31 millon for game seven of the 2016 NBA finals.

Stephen van Garderen, a tech teacher at Manurewa High School, leads the charge in bringing eSports into high schools, though he understands that it's not everyone's cup of tea.

"I don't think you're ever going to fully convince people it's a sport," van Garderen said.

"That's just the reality of it, you're not going to get everyone on board."

van Garderen said eSports was the same as any other modern professional sport. 

"Everything that is now professional, was once considered a hobby," van Garderen said.

"You got laughed at 20 years ago saying you wanted to be a professional rugby player."

He's also made his own headway, with the board of trustees at Manurewa officially recognising his eSports programme and including it on the school's sporting calendar.


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