RIIL considers high school esports league

Esports Arena Las Vegas (Esports Arena Las Vegas/MGN)

When you think about high school sports, it might be football or baseball or basketball.

But the Rhode Island Interscholastic League has announced a partnership that would begin competitive video gaming, which is also known as esports, in the state's high schools.

The idea sounds great to Logan Xavier, of East Providence, who is still a few years away from high school, but loves playing the hit game, “Fortnite.”

“It’s competitive, but tactical,” Xavier said. “Then, you can do it with your friends, too. It’s teamwork.”

Yet, not everyone feels the same, including Logan’s mother, Wendy, who said she and her son regularly battle to get him to stop playing video games.

“Enough at home. We don’t need it at school,” she said. “It wastes too much time. I’d rather have them outside playing than inside.”

Aaron Colaiacomo works on computers at Providence College. He is also the coach of PC’s esports team, which competes against others in the Big East Conference at games like “League of Legends.”

“The fun, the excitement. It’s very much like a traditional sport,” Colaiacomo said.

Colaiacomo pointed out that professional esports events sell out arenas, players can make big money, and big names, including Bob Kraft, who is the owner of the New England Patriots, have bought teams.

He also argued against the reclusive video gamer stereotype, saying esports can bring some kids out of their shell, reaching students that might have a niche.

“They have the ability to find others like them, other people who have similar interests,” Colaiacomo said.

Tom Mezzanotte, who is the head of the Rhode Island Interscholastic League, was out of state Wednesday at a conference, where esports was one of the topics discussed.

Mezzanotte told NBC 10 News by phone that 10 high schools have expressed interest in esports competition. By making it part of the traditional sports league, he said it encourages kids to participate in activities and being part of a team is important.

Mezzanotte said they would not use any violent video games, adding that they will assess the plan in August.

If implemented, video game tournaments would be held among the schools, and a state champion would be crowned at the end of the season.

State officials are in the process of gauging interest among schools.

If enough want to participate, play could begin as early as this fall.

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