CATHEDRAL CITY, Calif.- - Some students in the west valley will be spending a lot of time playing video games and it's all sanctioned by their schools. It comes as the Palm Springs Unified School District expands its offerings in esports.
When you think of high school sports, football or basketball certainly come to mind, but for Juan Leon, his sport comes in the form of a computer.
“It's sort of like taking your kids out for soccer. It basically that but ours is in electronic form,” Leon said.
He's part of the esports team at Mount San Jacinto High School in Cathedral City. His game of choice, League of Legends, a multi-player fantasy game that Leon plays competitively in tournaments. It involves strategy and coordination creating bonds between teammates.
“This game you have to become personal with your teammates...even if it means trash-talking,” he said.
It's all in jest of course.
PSUSD is pioneering the esports program locally being the first district in the valley to launch programs in three high schools back in January, and soon expanding to three middle schools. Interest has been strong among students.
“Video games in schools seems like a strange idea for everyone involved.//BUTTED// It's that newness. It's that ability to say we're meeting you where you're at,” Eduardo Rivera, Instruction Technology specialist at PSUSD, said.
It comes as esports exploded on the scene in recent years drawing nearly a billion dollars in worldwide revenue with top players making millions of dollars including the solo winner of the Fortnite World Cup. Part of its popularity has to do with its accessibility.
“Physically when you play a traditional sport, there are some limitations. You feel you have to be a certain height, a certain weight. I don't think that necessarily exists as much with video games,” Rivera said.
Nearly 200 colleges are now offering scholarships totaling 15 million dollars in all for their esports teams according to the National Association of Collegiate Esports.
“It would be amazing. A massive, massive win for us if we could get one of our students to get a scholarship to go to a really large college and play at a highly competitive level,” Rivera said.
For Leon, it's still surreal that esports has now become a very real career option.
“It's surprising really, how a game can give you a chance to earn millions or even join a big team,” he said.
More information on the world of esports in colleges can be found here.
More: I-Team investigations
Find us on Facebook: KESQ News Channel 3
Follow us on Twitter for breaking news updates: @KESQ
We’re on Instagram! @KESQ_News_Channel_3
Noticias en español: Telemundo 15