WESTMORELAND — For students, the video-gaming field is “starting to really blow up,” and “we want to be at the forefront of it,” says Westmoreland High School global studies teacher Gianni Notaro, adviser for the school’s Esports Club.
The school’s Bulldogs team in conjunction with the club recently joined the rapidly growing national online High School Esports League (HSEL), and is among a small number of local schools that have done so.
Of the team’s 20 members, Notaro said the “enthusiasm these students have for video games and their desire to compete with other kids across the nation is incredible. ESports is certainly the wave of the future and these kids are very happy to be at the forefront of that wave.”
Students emphatically agree.
• “It’s pretty exciting,” said 10th-grader Jayden Fedoroff, including the opportunity to compete against players across the country as well as make new friends.
Federoff, captain of the team segment that plays the “Super Smash Brothers” video game, is aware of college scholarship opportunities in relation to esports and gaming, including if HSEL players reach the finals of their competitions. While not sure if he would go to college for that field, it is “always good to have the opportunity if I do want to.”
Adding “not everybody loves video games,” Fedoroff welcomed the esports team for getting together with friends to “play the games you love,” adding it is great to have the “opportunity to have esports...the opportunity in our school.”
• “This team is what gamers like us need,” said 10th-grader Trevor Owens, who thanked Notaro for “gifting us with the opportunity to join this incredible team.”
Owens commented “gaming is a big part of culture and it’s nice to see that schools can have teams participate in this important part of culture.”
• Esports “brings other people in school together” and “definitely opens up school to more technological things,” said 10th-grader Joyeanne Alexander. “It shows people’s parents how important gaming is to them.”
• For exchange student Mateus Garcia, a senior who from Brazil who has spent the 2018-19 school year at Westmoreland, the esports concept is a pleasant surprise.
Video games are very popular in Brazil and “we play a lot,” but “we don’t have esports,” he observed. He is “so happy” to participate in it.
Garcia, who will head back to Brazil after the school year ends, said “I will do my best to represent Westmoreland” in the HSEL.
The number of schools represented nationally by the league has grown from around 200 to more than 1,200 in the past year, said a January report in Edtechmagazine.com.
Besides “Super Smash Brothers,” among other video games in which the Westmoreland team is competing in the league are “Rainbow Six Siege,” “Rocket League,” “Super Smash Brothers Ultimate” and Wii U “Fortnite.” Its competitions are at 5 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays unless opposing players agree on an alternative time, said Notaro.
Team members primarily compete using gaming systems at home, he added, while a few play in his classroom after school using computers there.
The computers are for instruction but also have gaming capabilities, said Notaro. He noted the school district including Superintendent Rocco Migliori, high school Principal Joshua Saxton and technology specialist Matt Cieri “have been incredibly supportive ever since I floated the idea to them to form an actual team.”
He added “they have provided me with all the support and equipment we would possibly need to get the team off the ground.”
Notaro, a “huge fan of video games,” explained that for the past two years he had run a gaming club a few times a week after school. After learning about the HSEL and discussing it with students who showed “an incredible amount of interest and enthusiasm,” he “decided to start an official team this year.”
Notaro’s goal is to have the videogaming competitions become established as a Westmoreland school sport with fall and spring seasons. A team logo was designed by his wife, Westmoreland High School art teacher Caitlyn Notaro. He hopes to get team shirts with students’ names on the back, to be worn in school on game days as is done with other school sports.
“Gaming isn’t just something you do for fun. It brings people together and unites players,” said team member Owens. “I speak for everyone when I say that we have all made friends by being part of this team. We are all part of something bigger than ourselves because of this team. Gaming isn’t just a hobby, it’s a passion.”