Tournament Game Choice for North America Scholastic Esports Federation Fall 2018 Season: Overwatch

NASEF working in close partnership with Blizzard Entertainment and Tespa on competitive high school tournament while educating teens in career skills through esports environment

Orange County, CA – September 6, 2018) – The North America Scholastic Esports Federation (NASEF) is excited to announce Overwatch is the game choice for the High School Scholastic Esports Tournament for Fall 2018. NASEF will be working in close partnership with Tespa and Blizzard Entertainment to offer a fantastic season.

With the expansion from a regional esports high school league in Orange County, CA, to the North America Scholastic Esports Federation (NASEF), it is important to add another game title and tournament to engage with more students. Riot Games’ League of Legends was an obvious choice in the pilot year, but additional games appeal to a greater variety of students, and NASEF aspires to connect with as many young people as possible.

NASEF’s executive committees, comprised of leading educators as well student gamers, discussed which titles to include for the 2018-2019 school year. After reviewing feedback from the pilot year and several lengthy conversations, the team achieved consensus that adding Overwatch would meet the mission, goals and objectives. Overwatch offers diverse heroes, a popularity amongst teenagers, significant educational value, and developer support.  

Tom Turner, Chief Education Officer for NASEF and STEM Education Director for Orange County Department of Education said, “We were looking for an esports title that had legitimacy with high school students as well as competitive college and professional teams. We also wanted a game that called out the skills for overall student success like communication, collaboration, and critical thinking.”

Some of the main factors considered when evaluating game titles:

Diverse Heroes: Overwatch is acclaimed for its intentional inclusion of diverse characters, which aligns with the beliefs of NASEF. One of NASEF’s five core values is Diversity and the celebration of individuality and our differences. Each of the game's more-than-20-strong roster feels like a complete and unique character. Plus, by allowing players (and even encouraging them) to swap out characters mid-match, there is more than enough opportunity to find the heroes or villains who fit anyone’s particular style of play1, which is important in allowing students to find their own avenues into the community of play and practice.

Popularity: Overwatch was released to great acclaim in 2016, receiving numerous awards in its short life span. Tens of millions of people have fallen in love with the game and early success of Overwatch League signals that the game will be around for years to come.

NASEF’s objective is to help teens connect their interests to real-world learning, and they are definitely interested in esports and Overwatch. Research shows that students learn more when they are deeply interested in the topic. Selecting a game that appeals to THEM is crucial.  

“In our pilot program, we saw that students loved the esports experience so much that they chose to engage beyond competing – creating flyers, producing videos, streaming, shoutcasting, you name it,” said Samantha Anton, Chief Operating Officer for NASEF. “By expanding to another popular title, we can appeal to an expanded group of students, allowing them to learn, grow, and thrive.”

New Genre: For the Fall 2018 season, one of NASEF’s goals was to expand the player base and esports ecosystem. League of Legends was a popular MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena), so the team looked to other genres. FPS games (first-person-shooters) are consistently ranked as one of the most popular formats, and Overwatch’s colorful fantasy world is an ideal way to explore this format.

Mimi Ito, Director of the Connected Learning Lab at UC Irvine notes, “Despite being raised as an issue, research has not demonstrated any clear link between playing violent video games and real-world violence. What is uncontroversial and backed by evidence is that the context of play has a significant influence on outcomes. Regardless of whether violence is portrayed, game play in the context of positive peer and family engagement, rather than resulting in violent or anti-social behavior, is tied to closer friendships, civic engagement, and literacy.”

NASEF leaders are a team of esports fans, players – and parents and educators. The first priority is the student. After carefully examining all sides of all games considered, the team selected Overwatch.

Educational Value: Coaches will have multiple opportunities to test players’ skills when calling for switching characters mid-game, potentially shifting strategic balance if players have not (quickly) thought through their character options. For other esport ecosystem roles, each game will encourage analysts to plot the META (Most Effective Tactical Application) of certain team compositions and swap-out strategies and timing; bloggers and fan artists will have a field day reproducing the art styles and characterizations for club website recaps, and shoutcasters and business development (sponsorship) roles will enthusiastically bring to life each meet.  

Competence: UCI Esports is one of the lead partners in NASEF. UCI players and staff have a deep understanding of the game, its competitive play, coaching, and tournament organization. This selection will allow them to make significant contributions to ensure a successful league and to support student learning. NASEF also hired a team of college students from around the country to serve as coaches. They excel in the game, while also working on degrees in a variety of STEM and other majors, bringing quality mentorship to the students.

Developer Support: Blizzard Entertainment, the developer behind Overwatch, is a close partner and collaborator that has invested heavily in building out collegiate esports. Tespa is a network of college clubs founded to promote gaming culture and host esports events and competitions. Tespa is working towards “a world where gaming is celebrated by people of all ages, recognized as a force for good, and a catalyst for bringing people together.”

Mark Deppe, Commissioner of NASEF, said, “We are thrilled to be working in close partnership with both organizations and explore and develop the high school space with them.”

High schools and community-based organizations are invited to join NASEF to receive free access to resources for starting a club and developing a competitive team, free student coaching, and more! Activate a club with NASEF to qualify.

 

1 https://www.commonsensemedia.org/game-reviews/overwatch

About the North America Scholastic Esports Federation

The North America Scholastic Esports Federation is working to ensure that ALL students possess the knowledge and skills needed to be society’s game changers: educated, productive, and empathetic individuals. NASEF is on a mission to provide opportunities for ALL students to use esports as a platform to acquire critical communication, collaboration, and problem-solving skills needed to thrive in work and in life. The Federation’s core values are intertwined through all aspects of education and play: learning, opportunity, community, diversity, and respect.

Under the Samueli Foundation’s leadership, the Federation is led by partners from the Orange County Department of Education, OC STEM Initiative, Connected Camps, Connected Learning Lab, UCI Esports, UCI Henry Samueli School of Engineering, and the UCI Bren School of Information & Computer Science.

Learn more at www.esportsfed.org. Members of the press can find videos, infographics, and leadership profiles in the online press room. Join online conversations on Twitter @NASEFgg for esports updates and @NASEFedu for our education news, on Facebook and Instagram, and see matches streamed live on our Twitch channel.

 

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