Esports presents opportunities at Buffalo Public Schools

Bennett High School & I-Prep unveil competitive video gaming program

WBEN Newsroom
December 18, 2019 - 4:51 pm
Students at Bennett High School compete in Rocket League. December 18, 2019 (WBEN Photo/Mike Baggerman)

Students at Bennett High School compete in Rocket League. December 18, 2019 (WBEN Photo/Mike Baggerman)


BUFFALO, N.Y. (WBEN) - Forget about the perception of video games being a colossal waste of time. At Bennett High School and I-Prep, video games are now an outlet for opportunity.

The two schools recently created its own amateur esports teams that will compete in a national high school league starting in January. The teams were created in Buffalo Public Schools thanks to a sponsorship from AT&T, which it said has given more than $100 million to support STEM initiatives across the country.

"Esports actually ties directly to STEM fields," Bennett High School Animation and Digital Design teacher Jackie Albarella said. "The same kinds of skills: Problem solving...are all embraced in esports. Also, esports is a team sport that anyone can get involved in. You don't have to be the biggest. You don't have to be the fastest. You don't have to be the tallest and you can be a member of an esports team. It's very inclusive."

Beyond playing video games during after school hours, students from Buffalo Public Schools have taken advantage of their love for video games by helping to design games. Albarella said students from her school competed in the AT&T Game Jam, where they helped create a video game and develop their skills in designing.

Esports is one of the fastest rising businesses. Reuters reports that esports revenues globally will hit $1.1 billion this year, up 27 percent since 2018. The revenues include sponsorships, advertising, and media rights. Some professional gamers utilize a streaming program called "Twitch", which allows fans of their to follow along with a live stream of the gamers playing video games. The top earners can make thousands of dollars on Twitch. Some of the top professional gamers have made more than $6 million.

Jordan Graves, a senior at Bennett High and captain of the esports team, is among those who have developed their skills beyond playing video games. He said he has learned how to animate and develop video games from scratch.

"I'm getting good leadership skills that you might not learn anywhere else," he said.

Graves also said that he's researched local colleges that have a competitive esports program.

Students are split into groups that meet on different days to play video games after school hours. No video games are played during normal school hours. Albarella said the students need to have passing grades and be in good standing with the school in order to participate.

Bennett High School and I-Prep students will begin competing in a national high school league starting in January.


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