July 25th, 2024

LC Kodiaks athletics hosts successful E-sports tourney

By Lethbridge Herald on May 16, 2022.

Cardston High School's Rigdon Conrad plays a round of Super Mario Smash Bros during the inaugural E-sports tournament at Lethbridge College on Saturday.

By Justin Seward

Lethbridge Herald

Lethbridge College Kodiaks athletics hosted an E-sports tournament for southern Alberta students this weekend. Grades 9-12 battled it out in a Super Smash Bros tournament that was known as Kodiaks Spring Smash.

“It’s centred around smash only,” said Allyson Cikor, Kodiaks Spring Smash event organizer and coach of the school’s E-sports teams.

“We brought in 40 participants — we had 35 come in this time around. We’re basically just playing a round robin double-elimination tournament.”

The game was Super Smash Bros Ultimate which is a casual fighting game.

“Anyone who’s really into E-sports, really into gaming, would be super familiar with Smash. It’s been around forever,” she said. “It’s one of those games that people play for fun and they also play at really high competitive levels.”

LC has been focusing in on E-sports for the last year.

“This is really us reaching out to that middle school to high school group and trying to say, ‘Hey, we’re doing this,’ building a community around it, giving them a place to participate and meet other players at high schools which as we’ve learned they’re starting up their own teams and their own programs and things like that.”

LC had dived into this area because of programming around the space including the virtual augmented reality program, digital communications and media — which handled the broadcast of event — and multimedia productions and graphics.

“We’ve already got a bit of that ecosystem already,” she said.

“But also especially over COVID when we first started looking at this. We recognized it as kind of a non-academic way for students to get together, compete or just kind of meet casually and it didn’t matter whether they were online orin person. So from there it kind of took off and we saw the value of it in the athletics department really as a new way to get students engaged who otherwise wouldn’t.”

LC views E-sports in the same way as chess, she said.

“It still takes skill, it still takes practice, in cases it takes team work and tons of practice and discipline, just like you see in other teams.”

Tyler Heaton is an LC VR programs instructor and is a community outreach coordinator for the E-sports.

“This year has been really good,” said Heaton on the program.

“We’ve seen a lot of growth. We started slow a couple of years ago, I mean of course COVID had a little bit to do with that. But the last year we’ve seen a lot of growth and really great support from our administrators, we’ve seen support from the community, we have support from some of the hardware vendors.”

Heaton said a lot of schools aren’t run out of the athletics side.

“They’re run out of student unions or clubs, whereas we’re fully supported by the athletics. These are athletes and to see that kind of support means a lot for the gaming community.”

While the gamers get glory when they get in the top four at the tournament, Heaton also thinks it provides validation for participants.

“As E-sports athletes, I think it validates what they’re doing,” he said. “They are performing at the top level for them. It may not be for basketball, but is top level for a lot of these students and some of these students are competing in tournaments outside of this — online tournaments, North American tournaments.”

Geran Bennett was a participant from Magrath High School and caught on to the E-sports concept through an extra-curricular after school class.

“When I was three-years-old I started playing video games,” he said. “My family, they started getting me into video games. So video games have been a part of my life ever since pretty much the beginning. And so, I said, ‘Well I might as well try.’ Because if I get myself out there, I can get recognized and maybe a university or college can come in contact with me.”

Bennett said it’s been pretty fun playing against different people. He is uncertain if he will pursue E-sports after high school.

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