Video Games and Competition: The Esports Club at Hunterdon Central

Video Games and Competition: The Esports Club at Hunterdon Central

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Video games are just a fun pass time to engage with friends, stories, and beautiful scenery in another world. Or so the world thought before national scoreboards for classic games were established, and the first “North American Video Game Challenge” was held. Maybe it took the first League of Legends championship in 2011, which hosted over 1.6 million viewers and had a $100,000 prize pool, to convince everyone that video games, their creators, and their players had started something new: ESports.

While unlikely that every game on one’s phone, console, and computer has competitions organized, it’s very possible that most gamers have at least played one game with running competitions. The current most popular games with ESports divisions are Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, the Call of Duty franchise, Dota 2, Fortnite, Hearthstone, Rainbow 6: Siege, Overwatch, Super Smash Bros., League of Legends, Minecraft, Rocket League, and Valorant, with Hunterdon Central having teams for the latter 6. These teams are all part of the school’s new ESports Club, which was founded in 2019. It started when a few kids got together and asked their English teacher to help supervise a club where people could come together to play video games. With a big dream and a few friends, they advertised at the school and managed to attract over 50 people to their first meeting. At first, the club only had four games that offered full-fledged teams: Super Smash Bros, Overwatch, League of Legends and Rocket League. Still, many people were excited to get together, play, and learn about what competitions they could potentially participate in.

Beginning in 2020, however, the COVID-19 shutdown interrupted many plans for the club. School became remote and no one had a set schedule for meetings or practice. Yet the students continued to meet with one another at their own times. They convened over the school year and summer, and later participated in small tournaments under the school’s name. These competitions included Minecraft Bedwars, the Minecraft Rube Goldberg Tournament, and Valorant. A great achievement by two then-Juniors last year was winning the Rube Goldberg Tournament with their amazing machine called Natural Selection

Last year, many teams, including Overwatch, Rocket League, Valorant, and Minecraft, officially formed in order to compete in high school based organizations like North American Scholastic Esports Federation (NASEF), High School Esports League (HSEL), and more. Two teams came home with winning titles in the 2020-2021 school year: the Overwatch Team placed first and Rocket League placed second in their respective State Championships, hosted by Garden State Esports (GSE). The two matches were hosted live on the GSE Twitch account with commentators from different high schools.

The Overwatch Team made notable achievements in their first season participating in the 2020 NASEF Regional Playoffs. HCRHS made it to 3rd place with a season score of 8 wins and 2 losses. They are looking to continue this year in a national competition with HSEL, with a current record of 5 straight wins and no losses including preseason games.

Rocket League is also keeping strong this year with a record of 3 wins and no losses this season in GSE. With a pool of 9 teams in the North Division, the Central Team hopes to keep their State title. Rocket League is becoming more popular this year, with there now being two divisions in New Jersey because so many schools are competing this year. The finals are taking place in Rutgers Esports Area, and Central is working towards winning big.

The League of Legends team made a valiant effort in the 2020 GSE season but unfortunately did not bring back a pole position. However, they have won several Clash tournaments, which are Riot’s official team tournament brackets. They plan on getting back into competition this year through one of the three leagues Central has already participated in, and are determined to win championships for their first major victory.

Now that the Esports Club is in full swing, meetings are held every week in the 9/10 Auditorium. They offer competitions in Overwatch, Super Smash Bros, Rocket League, Valorant and Minecraft. They are working towards achieving great things this school year and creating a big impact within the student body. There is no better time for a club like this to thrive.