Mateo Sciscento got his first Nintendo DS Lite when he was 3, along with Super Mario Brothers and the Legend of Zelda Phantom Hourglass games. In 6th grade, Mateo had picked up League of Legends, and found out about the LCS (League Championship Series), the professional level of League of Legends. He was instantly hooked. The competitive game is a team-based game with over 140 champions to make epic plays with, according to the game’s website.
“I would watch every weekend, cheer on my favorite teams and buy merch. I even had my favorite player, Huni,” says Mateo.
By 10th grade, Mateo became more serious about esports and, around that time, discovered Silver State Esports.
The student-led organization was created for high school students in the Las Vegas area to compete and organize esports events. Today, the organization has partnered with 36 schools and continues to expand. According to the CEO and President, Davis Cowles, esports helps to foster the growth of sportsmanship in a safe environment, similar to physical sports. But unlike physical sports, gaming offers a different type of interaction.
“These programs offer kids ways to learn skills that will help them become professionals in areas of IT, engineering, journalism, management, and so much more,” says Wes Byrd, the CEO of Skullz. The esports apparel company recently provided Silver State Esports with jerseys and merchandise for their teams.
“When kids are involved in an activity that they feel they have some ownership and/or leadership in, it boosts their moral, providing them with incentives to become positive and productive members of our society, “says Byrd.
The new jerseys and merchandise create a real sense of community. According to Cowles, the jerseys and the merch will not only benefit Silver State, but all 36 schools that can afford setting up shops. Skullz is launching a fully dedicated ecommerce website for Silver State that will go live in early February.
Intrigued by the level of passion in esports the Silver State Esports students demonstrate, Byrd says he is impressed with how the organization is run. In addition to hosting live events, Silver State offers a STEM program, which creates engagement through the various technology-based activities within the esports community. Studies have shown these types of programs are associated with higher GPA’s for High School (Fox et. al.), increased satisfaction with school (Astin), fosters personal growth (Richard & Ares) and much more. And according to The National Federation for High School Esports, the sport provides many opportunities for growth and learning, such as the creation and practice of “soft skills,” including communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity.
For some of the students involved with Silver State Esports, competing has helped to shape their lives in unexpected ways.
“I’ve been able to truly follow my passion and finally be happy with what I’m doing,” Mateo explains. “In middle school, I used to do competitive math competitions, and while I was good, I was never really happy. I always knew I wanted to do something with esports, but it would always take time away from my competitions. In high school, I finally mustered up the strength to focus more on esports, and I was much happier.”
Every school year, any school that is in, or joins Silver State Esports by the deadline, will be eligible to send their top 5 players as representatives to compete in the many esports events offered at the LVL UP EXPO (a gaming/anime/comics convention based in Las Vegas). The Expo covers various types of gaming, including the most current technology and systems. Some of the events may offer larger pot bonuses, trophies, sponsorships, and other prizes that the players will be able to benefit from. The event will be held April 23 – 25, 2021.
With COVID-19, the industry has shifted in a positive way. “Because games are played online, the gaming and esports industry has pivoted much faster than any other business,” says Byrd. “Now, more than ever, schools are forced to consider esports as a major offering for their students.”
The pandemic has driven Silver State to focus on keeping the connections they have established with the schools. “At the end of the day, even through these circumstances, people still want and need these experiences,” Cowles surmises.
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