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E-Sportsfest?

One of the highlights of the academic year for most high school students is ironically the sportsfest or intramurals week. This is one thing that has never changed, from my time a generation ago, up to now and it is one of the primary complaints of my kids when we get nostalgic at the dinner table and talk about the activities we miss from our pre-Covid lives.

This year, there will obviously be no in-person sports fest because nobody is going to school but we’ve been expecting the tradition to be somehow upheld. However, my kids are already midway into the videocall academic year and up to now, there has been no announcement regarding any sports fest. They are starting to resign themselves to the fate that their school officials have already given up on it.

When we discussed this many months ago, I suggested to my kids that if they feel strongly about having some kind of sports fest push through, they should take it upon themselves to suggest to their student council or homeroom advisers any ideas they have about hosting a sports fest. They did nothing, hoping that someone else would take the up the sports fest cudgels for them but with their expedited school year quickly running out of time, it looks like nobody did.

If a school can hold all of its classes online, including CAT and PE sessions where teachers ask students to take video of themselves performing some sort of awkward physical activity, there is no reason why they can’t have an electronic version of the sports fest tradition.

There are dozens of multiplayer games out there that most of today’s high school students more or less play. While many are shooter games that Catholic schools may not be comfortable as being seen “encouraging” their students to play, there are many other “harmless” game genres, including actual sports. There are officially licensed NBA and FIFA games out there, but most aren’t free to play so that might make accessibility a problem. However, there are also other game genres that can be fun to play in a virtual sportsfest. Even a puzzle game such as Tetris has a multiplayer mode that should be sportsfestable.

Shooter games might get a bad rep from non-gamer adults because of the “violence” and weapons involved but if you’ve seen a group of kids play together, the teamwork and skill needed to win challenging matches can be pretty impressive. Counter Strike, which was what I played when I was in college in the mid-90s, is still pretty popular I hear. There is also Call of Duty and Valorant, which are free to play. Setting up a school-based tournament and allowing batchmates to form teams for an e-sportsfest could be the highlight of their boring schoolyear.

There should be free game platforms for chess, game of the generals, tic tac toe, or even rock-paper-scissors of the school is really running short on choices. All the kids will need is an internet connection, an opponent, and a tournament format.

As for the games that have to be purchased, such as the NBA or FIFA offerings, kids who already have the game can sign up. If there are enough participants, then it’s a go. If there aren’t enough, then no go. It’s that simple and that sort of screening can apply to all games to give all sorts of gamers the chance to form teams and show off their skills. All the organizing committee has to do is list down all the games that can be registered into the intramurals, determine if there are enough players, set up the tournament formats, register the players and there you have it…an e-sportsfest.

For the kids who don’t play, the organizers can set up game streaming sessions using Twitch or maybe even Zoom. They can view the games and cheer for their friends from the comfort of their homes. If academics has to be infused, in-game commentators can be assigned to matches and their performance can even be graded by their language teachers.

Reimagining the sportsfest so the kids don’t miss out on it this year should be doable if there are people who want it happen. We have the resources for e-schooling. The games and the players are there. All they need is someone to bring it all together for a couple of days so the kids who have been cooped up in their homes can have a bit of fun during this godforsaken school year.

There are a few months left of the schoolyear. Perhaps the lost sportsfest can still be saved.*

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