High school would be a better place without bullies… and so would esports. One for-profit gaming company has been bullying the high schools themselves into making schools pay to host leagues and tournaments of some of the world’s most popular competitive games. This is a turning point for scholastic esports; the scrappy underdog educators vs. the 100 million dollar company that’s looking to dominate the field. Sounds like a story for a new high school sports movie. The race for the soul and future of high school esports has officially begun.

Gaming in high schools at the competitive level is growing in popularity and shows no sign of slowing down. Esports are snowballing into being a huge cultural force that everyone is going to understand eventually, like it or not. The company PlayVS has decided to monopolize the high school esports field, at schools that have partnered with the program, they’re charging each student at $64 per season to compete in tournaments they administer. The really messed up part? Some of the games they claim to have exclusive license for are free to play. In our predatory economy, for many students $64 means eating for a week or not. Despite their friendly looking website, PlayVS is a for profit company of sharks and straight up bullies.

Riot Games

Charging schools and students to play a free-to-play game like ‘League of Legends’ is a bad look my dudes.

The Washington Post reported that PlayVS had sent a cease and desist letter to the Washington State Scholastic Esports Association, claiming they had an exclusive contract with SuperSmash, Mario Kart, and Overwatch. PlayVS wanted the WSSEA to sign up and pay them to administer competitions, or stop playing entirely. But the makers of these games, Nintendo and Activision Blizzard, say otherwise. They stated that other high school programs can apply for licenses if they wish, a fact that PlayVS conveniently left out when they were strong-arming the underpaid and overworked administrators and teachers at many schools. 

High school sports organizations can be predatory, making money off of the hard work of students who aren’t paid to play. In the still nascent stages of high school esports, we have a chance to protect the players and promote healthy competition. High school esports will soon be worthy of its own Friday Night Lights style movie. But not if only the richest schools get to play. There’s a reason that movie isn’t about polo. If for profit companies come to dominate the scene, it’s going to lock less advantaged schools and students out of playing entirely. Here’s hoping schools and players around the country are willing to stand up to the bullies at PlayVS and other companies seeking to make a buck off of students and teachers who are in it for the love of the game.

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