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story.lead_photo.caption MARK HUMPHREY ENTERPRISE-LEADER Farmington Technology Coordinator, Jarod Morrison coached the school's first eSports teams in 2019. The Arkansas Activities Association sanctioned esports for the first time in January with plans to run both a fall and spring season for esports.

FARMINGTON -- The Arkansas Activities Association introduced eSports in 2019, and almost immediately Farmington ventured into the technological world of competition going where no Cardinal has gone before.

In January the AAA Board of Directors voted to enter into a partnership with PlayVersus, an online gaming provider based out of Los Angeles, Calif. According to a AAA press release, PlayVersus has worked directly with the National Federation of State High School Associations and NFHS Network to become the sole eSports league of member state associations.

"PlayVs is committed to high schools," said Derek Walter, Assistant Executive Director of the AAA. "We are excited to partner with a company like PlayVs. They are committed to introducing eSports to our member schools in the most efficient way possible."

Jarod Morrison, Technology Coordinator at Farmington, took the reins of the fledging program as coach capturing opportunity to get more kids engaged in school activities which he says decreases chances of them getting into mischief.

"Arkansas Activities Association got together with a company called PlayVersus and they made an eSports league for all the schools in Arkansas so there's no classifications. There's not 1A, 2A, 3A, it's the whole state, and so if you field a team, then you're playing against everybody," Morrison said.

Taking note that PlayVs partners with game developers to make sure games are team based, appropriate for students, and capable of being played on school computers to keep operating cost down, the AAA sanctioned eSports as a means of increasing participation in schools.

"Our goal is for eSports to target students who don't currently participate in activities like football, basketball, band, or drama," Walter said.

Schools wanting to participate had to meet a Feb. 8 deadline to sign up for the inaugural spring season, which ran from Feb. 25 through April 22. The cost to play eSports is $64.00 per student per season.

For 2019 PlayVersus offered three games: League of Legends, Smite, and Rocket League. Schools competed in each of the games with teams of three to five students. Each school can have multiple teams for each game.

Farmington fielded teams in two of the three categories for 2019.

"We had Rocket League, which is like a soccer-style game with cars and then we had League of Legends, which is more complicated," Morrison said. "It's almost like chess with five people, it's a role-playing game."

Farmington played against Springdale, Van Buren, and Hot Springs Math & Science School. The Cardinals had two Rocket League teams and one League of Legends team. Rocket League played on Tuesdays while League of Legends played on Thursdays.

During the regular season, teams play one game a week, which doubles during a tournament with two games per week.

In the future, AAA plans to structure eSports into both a fall and spring season.

According to Morrison, the format puts teams into pool play for about five or six weeks, and once teams get some kind of ranking established by the pool play, then there's a big tournament at the end of the year.

"Our League of Legends teams, they were a little bit more serious, the older kids and they did good," Morrison said.

Farmington's League of Legends team made it to the second-round of the playoffs where Morrison said they barely got beat by Van Buren.

"They had a good, successful year," Morrison said. "They got better pretty much every week."

The Rocket League teams didn't fare quite as well.

"Our Rocket League kids, they were hit and miss. They were younger kids and so they relied on the parents to get to practice and games," Morrison said. "They had a good time and got to be involved in something they normally wouldn't be able to be involved in."

Morrison said Farmington eSports didn't draw anybody who is really involved in sports other than his son, who plays football which translates that the program accomplished its design of filling a competitive void.

Sports on 07/10/2019

Print Headline: eSports Aims To Fill Competitive Void

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