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Sang-hyeok, better known as “Faker,” is the “Cristiano Ronaldo” of the popular game League of Legends. The 21-year-old was picked up by South Korea’s Telecom eSports team in 2013, and after winning the World’s Most Valuable Player for gaming in 2016, was re-signed for a rumored $2.5 million, excluding competition prizes and personal sponsorships.
eSports gamers typically mature in their early 20s and are “old” past 25. All along, the mantra is: practice, practice, practice – a minimum of 10, and up to an average 14, hours a day for elite pros. While those hours might be (arguably) okay for sedentary business professionals with lunches on-the-go, aspiring gamers are just kids. How can they do math and write essays, play soccer and piano, meet their friends in person, eat and sleep enough, and play videogames 10-14 hours a day? They can’t.
The main concerns with eSports today include its sedentary and potentially-addictive nature. Skeptics highlight the potential for player exploitation, the negative physical and mental health aspects, and question the validity of calling an activity that involves sitting for hours on end a sport.
As Grade 6–8 Principal Dan Cowan says, “There are issues and we want to address them out in the open. At FIS we value each person’s uniqueness and talents. Some of our students are highly skilled gamers but we haven’t recognized or valued their talents. We want to create an open space for our kids to participate in eSports together, under coached supervision, to support teamplay of age-appropriate games, and from this position we’ll be better able to develop the balance of academics and physical activity.”
Mr. Kalas, a 25-year veteran of gaming and also an FIS swim coach, feels that eSports can foster friendship and teamwork as a good competitive outlet, like Chess or Math clubs. Grade 8 student, Noel, con rms this when explaining why he likes to play: “What I like most is that it’s yours
– your world, your accomplishments – and being with friends. Even if you compete, it’s a good way to connect. It’s fun-competitive, not mean-competitive.”
Mr. Kalas adds, “our focus is on non-violent, strategy-based games. This year we aim to have an FIS eSports competition in the  rst semester and a competition with another school in the second. As an advisor, I will be encouraging an appropriate level of engagement and balance in the students’ work-play life.”
Noel, who started playing when he was “ ve or six,” could be a poster child for this balance. He plays daily, but only after he’s done with his homework and twice-a-week soccer practice. He recognizes the potential health issues with gaming but notes that, “It would have to be someone who is really addicted. I have a healthy diet and like to practice sports. For me, it’s not an issue.”
The all-male reality of the  rst meeting of the FIS eSports Club re ects the state of the eSports industry today; there is just one female gamer in the league of top 500 eSports
Student gamers with advisor Je  Kalas
pro gamers by earnings. While girls’ part in today’s eSports is largely as audience, a survey released this September by the Internet Advertising Bureau reveals that 52% of gamers are women – up from 49% in 2014 – but they are not playing eSports. Why not?
My own Grade 8 daughter o ers an explanation that Noel considers “very thoughtful”: “Girls like background and story and the journey to the goal is at least as important as getting there. Boys just want to know: ‘How am I going to win?’ Some games like Slime Rancher have good stories, amazing backgrounds and adorable characters, but that doesn’t matter in eSports. What matters is to be fastest to the goal. You need to forget the story and just focus on getting to the end  rst. For many girls, that makes us not want to play.”
Mr. Cowan said, “If you bring issues out in the open, then you can have a conversation.” With openness and balance as key motifs of the FIS eSports Gaming Club, the future is bound to bring girls into its fold as well.
Maria Monteiro FIS Parent
October 2017 FIS World 19

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