Game on: Great Plains setting up eSports club



  • Great Plains Technology Center in Lawton is joining the growing number of schools competing in the electronic sports arena, commonly referred to as eSports.

OKLAHOMA CITY – Great Plains Technology Center in Lawton is joining the growing number of schools competing in the electronic sports arena, commonly referred to as eSports.

“We’re in the process of setting up our program” and expect to have “everything lined up” to start playing competitively in tournaments “within the next couple of weeks,” James Bishop, the tech school’s eSports supervisor, and former 3-D design and animation instructor said Thursday. The Great Plains eSports club is open to any student enrolled at the school who pays $20 dues. Participants will be required to maintain satisfactory grades and attendance.

ESports will be an extracurricular activity played after hours – 3 p.m. to 8 p.m., plus Saturdays and Sundays – not during class periods, Bishop said. Video games the Great Plains team will play include:

• Smash Bros., a Nintendo Switch fighting video games. Iconic characters such as Mario and Yoshi can duke it out in a free-for-all contest.

• League of Legends, a multiplayer online battle arena video game. Two teams of powerful champions, each with a unique design and playstyle, battle head-to-head across multiple battlefields and game modes.

• Rocket League, a physics-based vehicular soccer video game that combines soccer with driving. Players choose from a variety of high-flying vehicles equipped with rocket boosters to score aerial goals and pull off game-changing saves.

• Blizzard’s Overwatch, a team-based shooter set on a near-future Earth. Each player selects from a roster of diverse characters known as “heroes,” each of whom has a unique playstyle and unleashes an array of powers and weapons.

ESports require “a high degree of knowledge about games and a higher order of thinking skills, strategy, tactics, and coordination,” Bishop said. “These are highly coordinated types of game playing.” The games also require “powerful computers, processors, RAM and video cards,” he added. Great Plains has 18 such computer stations that the eSports team will utilize, Bishop said.

Great Plains Technology Center plans to scrimmage the Cameron University eSports team coached by Digital Media Manager John Cunningham “in the next couple of weeks,” said Bishop (whose son has been accepted as a member of Cameron’s Smash Bros. team). Cameron launched its eSports program in August as a “recruitment and training tool,” spokesman Keith Mitchell said.

“The creation of an eSports team at Cameron is more than an extracurricular activity,” Dr. Christopher Keller, chair of the CU Department of Communication, English and Foreign Languages, said in a press release. Team members “have to exercise critical thinking and be able to work together to achieve team goals,” Keller said. “For team-based games, just as in other sports, players often have different roles and responsibilities, so good communication and the ability to work together is critical to success.”

Cameron’s eSports suite is in Room 131 of the Academic Commons, according to the press release. The room is equipped with a dozen battle stations featuring state-of-the-art high-speed Alienware gaming PCs that utilize Nvidia 2080Ti video graphics cards. In addition, the facility has “extremely high-speed bandwidth with zero lag,” Cunningham said. The suite also contains a gaming console room that includes a Nintendo Switch station where CU’s competitive Super Smash Bros. team practices and competes.

The eSports program at CU was underwritten with a $110,000 grant from The McMahon Foundation, Keller said. Cameron will incorporate eSports-related workshops into its curriculum, Keller said. Possible topics include “Play-by-Play and Announcing in Electronic Sports,” “Video Production and eSport Broadcast,” and “Storytelling in Digital Gaming.”

Oklahoma City University announced on Nov. 17 that it will offer the state’s first eSports management degree next fall. The Bachelor of Arts degree program will incorporate sport science, broadcasting, advertising, event management, budgeting, and content development, an OCU news release related. The management degree program will offer courses in health behavior, TV studio and field production, and theory of coaching.

The announcement was issued two months after OCU founded its eSports Club with the intention to offer scholarships to recruited players next spring. One of the fastest-growing student activities on colleges and high schools across the nation is eSports. At least 26 Oklahoma high schools, including Sapulpa, Union, Broken Arrow, Cleveland and Sayre, have established eSports teams to compete statewide, the Associated Press reported recently.

The Putnam City school district founded one of the largest gaming programs this fall, with all three of its high schools participating. A new gaming room at Putnam City North High School, for example, contains 12 computers, four Xbox consoles and two hand-held Nintendo Switch systems. Team members sit in high-quality gaming chairs in front of LED-lit computer processing units. The eSports director at Lawton Public Schools failed to respond to an email sent Nov. 18, requesting information about LPS’ eSports program.