Young video game enthusiasts who are students in Kyrene School District will now have intramural competition to satisfy their competitive desires.
Kyrene School District is hosting an esports league starting in mid-September through a partnership with Bravous Esports, using Aprende Middle School in Chandler as the game venue.
Esports, or competitive gaming, continues to grow in popularity and scale, with the industry generating $900 million in revenue and an audience of 395 million in 2018, according to gaming analytics firm Newzoo.
The Overwatch League’s Grand Finals even received coverage on ESPN last summer.
The Arizona Interscholastic Association, the governing body of high school sports in the state, has already sanctioned it as a legitimate sporting activity, with state titles in two games.
The first is Overwatch, a first-person shooter game from Blizzard in which two teams of six players each take control of characters with diverse abilities and strategize to control or complete objectives.
The second will be in Super Smash Brothers Ultimate, the most recent iteration of Nintendo’s fighting game series.
East Valley high schools could field teams starting in the fall. Horizon Honors High School in Ahwatukee currently has a Gamers Club that includes video games alongside card and tabletop games as its focus of interest.
Kyrene students who sign up for the Bravous program will also be competing in Super Smash Brothers Ultimate.
The Bravous program is organized like any other recreational sports league. Players form teams, work with coaches and get one practice and one game a week.
The season lasts eight weeks and culminates in an end of season tournament complete with trophies. All equipment is provided for the $199 registration fee, and an early-registration discount is available at the company’s website, bravous.com.
“All the kids need to do is show up,” says Bravous founder Scott Novis. “Esports is competitive video gaming and covers many games. We focus on Super Smash Brothers Ultimate.”
A former Walt Disney executive and founder of the nation’s largest video game party franchise, GameTruck, Novis “is passionate about healthy video gaming for kids,” a company spokesman said.
Karen Mendoza, a former Nintendo executive who joined the Bravous management team earlier this year, also is directing the Bravous program.
“We used our combined 30-plus years of experience providing wholesome, family — friendly entertainment to imagine a new esports experience. Kids come together, work with coaches to improve their gaming skills, learn life skills and make some friends,” said Mendoza. “It’s not a party, but we have a lot of fun.”
The Kyrene league is open to students in third through eighth grade — as well as the general public.
Bravous isn’t in any other school districts in Arizona but it is running its fourth session in North Scottsdale at the Dave and Busters at Desert Ridge Marketplace.
The City of Maricopa is rolling out its own recreational esports league, with the youth element implementing the Bravous system.
A Bravous spokesman said that during practices, players will play on individual units “but during games we will bring out monitors for matches.”
The end-of-season tournament will offer an opportunity for spectators who can watch matches on large-format projectors.
The greatest demand has been for the Smash Brothers Ultimate game, so the league is focusing on that title.
“Bravous is special because there is no bench,” added Novis. “It is different than traditional sports and some ways better because the competition is not focused on one ball that only a few kids get to touch. Everyone plays. Everyone contributes. Everyone competes.”
Instruction is “built upon a rich library of drills to help players learn advanced techniques,” he added.
Mendoza said competition at a high level “takes great coaching and we deliver that.
“Our coaches are not only great Smash players, but they are also background checked, and trained to work with kids,” she added.
“We wanted to deliver an esports experience that was social, competitive and helped players meet other kids who shared their interests,” added Mendoza, noting:
“In Bravous Leagues, players compete in person and they work with coaches in person. The social dynamic is totally different than online esports.”
Esports is the fastest the growing professional competition in the world, with more than 80 universities now having esport teams and scholarships.
Space is limited for the Kyrene league and a spokesman said parents should register their children quickly because the company expects a sellout.