'Esports are very inclusive': Edmonton students learn life skills at video game tournament

A group of Edmonton students is showing how video games can help young people make friends and develop life skills.

'Not everybody can participate in traditional athletics,' teacher says

About 50 Edmonton students took part in a competitive, multiplayer video game tournament this week. (Manuel Carillos/CBC)

A group of Edmonton students is showing how video games can help young people make friends and develop life skills.

About 50 students gathered at McNally High School on Saturday for an electronic sports, or esports, tournament. Students from seven Edmonton high schools took part, competing in teams while playing the League of Legends video game.

Harry Ainlay High School student Nathan Wong, 16, said there's a good reason why some people choose to compete on a TV screen instead of on a field or rink.

"It's definitely the ease of access," he said. "Some people naturally have like, say a better physical body to do physical sports. But maybe that's not an option for other people."

He said esports teams prepare for tournaments like athletic teams — they practice and develop strategies.

Harry Ainlay High School student Nathan Wong says esports help people learn team building and cooperation. (Manuel Carillos/CBC)

"You definitely learn how to deal with people that maybe you might not be able to cooperate the best with," Wong said. "You really learn how to ... connect with other people and really communicate well."

Corbett Artym, a teacher at McNally, also highlighted the accessibility of competitive, multiplayer video gaming.

"Esports are very inclusive," said Artym. "Not everybody can participate in traditional athletics. And so this gives an opportunity for people to work on their team work, communication, strategy in that team environment."

McNally High School teacher Corbett Artym was a supervisor for the project. (Manuel Carillos/CBC)

He said the tournament has been well-received by parents.

"Everyone's really excited that their kids have an opportunity to go in and compete against other high schools and just support their school like other students would in athletics," Artym said.

The tournament kicked off Thursday and wrapped up with the championship match on Saturday evening. It was planned by a group of eight McNally students in the International Baccalaureate program, said Artym, a supervisor for the project.

"One of the key things that we as gamers learn is to be able to learn how to cooperate and work with one another," said McNally student Keman Le, who helped organize the tournament. "It also helps improve our communication skills."

McNally High School student Keman Le (left) participates in the esports tournament on Saturday. (Manuel Carillos/CBC)

Le, 17, noted gaming is also a great forum for meeting new people.

"I've made a lot of friends online that I've stayed in touch with, who I talk to still to this day," said Le, who practices esports for about three hours a week. "One day, I want to meet them and hopefully see how they are in real life."

Wong acknowledged some people likely think esports isn't a very social activity.

"In reality, I've met some of ... my closest friends through gaming and, like I would never have met them if I never played the games," Wong said. "I learned team building aspects, communication."