Scribner-Snyder esports team pulls wins over regional teams


Noah Banks, a senior at Scribner-Snyder Community Schools, said he joined the school’s esports team last year for the people.

“My best friend at the time talked me into it, and he was the captain last year, and I just grew to love it,” he said.

Now the team captain, Banks and 12 other Scribner-Synder students make up the school’s esports team, which plays video games like “Overwatch” and “League of Legends” competitively against other schools in the state.

The esports team was started in the fall of 2018 by Linda Schafer, a K-12 computer technology teacher. Schafer, the team’s sponsor, said last year’s team ended with six seventh- through 12th-grade students, which has now doubled.

In the fall, Scribner-Snyder focuses on playing “Overwatch,” a 2015 first-person shooter computer game that requires teamwork between six players to beat the other team. The “heroes” range from support, which focus on healing, to tanks, which are more powerful, but slower.

With “Overwatch,” Banks said he plays Orisa, a tank character that was added to the roster in 2017.

“I like to play tanks, so it’s just kind of protecting the team and making call-outs,” he said. “It’s just something I think I’m pretty good at.”

Scribner-Synder is currently part of the Nebraska Schools Esports Association, which has 13 schools from across the state competing against each other. It has both varsity and junior varsity teams for “Overwatch.”

Although it lost twice earlier this season against Holdrege, Scriber-Snyder won twice against Broken Bow earlier this week. The school faced Gering Thursday night, which was the first time they played “Overwatch” together, Schafer said.

In the spring, Schafer said the team will focus on “League of Legends,” a 2009 top-down game that, like “Overwatch,” uses teamwork to win. The game is one of the most popular esports, with over 100 million players worldwide.

Other games in the NSEA include “Rocket League,” a soccer-type game with cars, and “Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty,” a strategy game.

“At this point, we only focus on team games so that I can have a group of students together doing the gaming,” Schafer said. “’Starcraft II’ is an individual game, and last year when we started, we went with the six- and five-people team games.”

Scribner-Synder will also be hosting an esports tournament at the school on Saturday, Oct. 26. The event will host teams from Gretna and David City, as well as Grand Island, which will compete online.

“They won’t physically be in the building, but they’ll still be participating in it,” Schafer said. “So we’re excited about that because there are only two schools hosting tournaments for our state group this fall, and Scribner-Snyder is one of them.”

Schafer said the team’s main goal this year is to be one of the top four “Overwatch” teams in the state. And by holding events like the tournament later this month, Schafer said she hopes to get even more schools interested in esports.

“We have several schools that have talked to administration and will be joining us for the spring games when we start ‘League of Legends,’” she said. “To have them start now would be a little bit difficult since ‘League of Legends’ is a free game, versus ‘Overwatch,’ which we pay for.”

In 2018, the total prize money for esports was $162 million. So far this year, that number has been surpassed, reaching over $180 million.

“For me, I just want people to understand that it is a sport,” Banks said. “They have concepts like football or basketball.”

Schafer said esports use the same team concepts that other sports do, as the players have to rely on communication and collaborative work.

But the sport also allows all kinds of students to participate, she said.

“We do have some special-needs students who are playing ‘Overwatch’ with us this fall, and they’ll play again in the spring,” Schafer said. “And neither one of them would be able to participate in a physical sport, so for me, it means everything to give those kids opportunities.”

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