Tue, Aug 2, 2022 9:17 AM

Esports come to Marlborough

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Matt Brown

Youth from across South Island are set to compete in the region’s first professionally produced esport tournament.

Set for the main stage of the ASB theatre, students will compete in teams of three for prizes and bragging rights in Rocket League and League of Legends.

Recognised by Sport New Zealand, and with EBlacks on their way to the Commonwealth esports championships, esport naysayers look to be on the wrong side of history.

You’ve got to see it in person before blowing it off as just kids playing videogames, says Victory Up co-founder and director Henry Lawton

“When most people hear esports, what they visualise is a teenager with curtains drawn in a dark room, eating chips and drinking fizzy. But when you take it out of the bedroom; the intensity, the communication, it’s more than what people think it is.”

Victory Up work closely with schools to provide a nationwide high-school esport league, enabling students to compete in a variety of games in a safe environment.

“The chief executive of Sport NZ came along to one of our events and was like, we’ll see if this is a sport. He was blown away.

“For our parents and grandparents generation – it’s more about seeing it with your own eyes.

“Come along to the event, and you’ll see why your grandchild is interested in this space.”

Gaming teaches team play, communication and provides rangatahi with a wide range of transferable skills, says Chamber event manager Zoe Gray.

The gaming industry is worth more, globally, than the film and music industry combined; and there are plenty of high-paying jobs on offer.

“They’ve got proper strategies; they need good communication – it’s just like any other sport team,” Zoe says.

“Employers are looking for people that are intelligent, team players.”

Part of the Marlborough Chamber of Commerce’s two-day tech event, Empower: Te Rangapikikōtuku eSports and Coding Festival, the esport tournament is the first of its kind in Marlborough, and the first regional production for Victory Up and Rotorua-based Digital Natives Academy.

There will also be interactive workshops covering a range of tech themes, including digital design, robotics and mechatronics, app development, and Minecraft.

“It’s cool to start getting out of the main cities,” Henry says.

“A lot of kids are missing out on the social aspects of traditional sport.

“[Victory Up] empowers them and empowers the school. It gives them a chance to connect with their students, and it’s a safe pathway for them.”

He hopes creating opportunities in gaming and running high-profile events will help level the playing field for young people.

“Being Māori, a PC isn’t really something I grew up with,” he says.

Victory up aims to give schools the knowledge to provide the tools needed for students to take part, much like they provide a field for traditional sports.

“It’s about digital equity; how do we unlock the ability for everyone to take part?”

He points to Christchurch’s successful esport programmes at the library.

“We hope to replicate that around the country.

“We find people are staying at the library after their matches.

“There are lead on opportunities after that.

“What we’re lacking in Aotearoa is the option to try it.”

Entries for the Empower esport tournament are open now.

The tournament will be live streamed on Twitch on August 26-27.

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