By Barbara Hollands
Pupils at Hudson Park Primary can now participate in a sport that carries no risk of concussion, neck injury or scraped knees because it is played in cyberspace.
Rapidly gaining in school popularity worldwide, e-sports are the new chess, according Hudson Park Primary School computer academy teacher Justin Smith, who has enrolled his team in the online inter-schools provincial championships this Saturday.
“You have to strategise, but you also have to be a team player and have team camaraderie,” said Smith, who kicked off the extra-mural at the beginning of this year and has 17 boys aged between 11 and 13 on his attendance register.
“Unfortunately no girls signed up.”
“They can do it to replace a sporting activity and gaming appeals to those not physically fit or pupils who have a medical condition like asthma.
“It gives them an opportunity to be on a team.”
Smith said the boys play a “first person shooter game” called Counter Strike, in which a team of five players competes against an opposing team.
“It’s the same as the real-life game of paintball, but instead of getting hurt in real life, you get shot in cyberspace and don’t feel a thing. There are no future hip or spine injuries and no concussions on a field.
“There is even a DSTV channel devoted to gaming.”
Asked if violent gaming could trigger aggression in youngsters, Smith said referees umpired competitive events to keep heightened antagonism at bay.
“They are not alone playing in a dark room. They are told it’s just a game and if they get worked up, there are umpires,” he said.
The boys will also be playing a Multiple Player Online Battle Arena (Moba) game called Defence of the Ancients in which opposing teams use magic and swords to conquer each other’s bases.
Smith said the Hudson Park Primary team would compete in the inter-school provincial championships against other provinces at the school on Saturday.
“The boys will log in and meet the other teams in cyberspace. This is just round one. We are trying to establish which players will make it to the national trials on June 4.
“It is mainly for high school pupils, but I am trying to get them early and train them up for years to come because they could become part of the Springbok team,” said Smith.
“They love it. Some of them … want to become professional [gamers].” — firstname.lastname@example.org