Esports popularity continues to grow in Maine

Esports’ popularity continues to grow in Maine during the coronavirus pandemic. More high schools will add esports teams for this upcoming spring season.

AUGUSTA, Maine — It’s always a challenge for parents to get their kids away from video games and with folks being home more, limiting screen time is even more difficult.

With the winter and spring sports seasons in limbo, many student-athletes miss the social interaction of a team. But esports — competitive video gaming — encourages video gameplay.

Esports is the newest sport sponsored by the Maine Principal’s Association (MPA). This past fall, high school students from across the state played in two-year-long esports leagues. One played League of Legions, a multi-player arena battle game, and the other played Rocket League.

In Rocket League, each player controls a car and, along with their teammates, tries to hit a ball into their opponent’s goal.

“Schools are jumping on with an opportunity to offer something to their kids where they’re losing some opportunities athletically and [through] some of the clubs,” Michael Bisson, assistant executive director of the MPA, said Tuesday.

Although more popular since the start of the pandemic, the virtual gaming competition world has been paying attention for years.

“I think it was [only] a matter of time before the esports industry had this big boom,” Maine Central Institute’s esports coach Sean Stackhouse said. “This is more attention [than] esports has ever gotten in the mainstream.”

Stackhouse has been involved with esports since long before they were played competitively in Maine. In 2015, the game Rocket League was released and Stackhouse instantly became a fan. 

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Stackhouse even worked on ESPN broadcasts of collegiate Rocket League tournaments. 

“All of sudden ESPN is putting Rocket League on the actual ESPN channels and not hiding it on the app somewhere,” he said.

The pause in other sports seems to have nudged high schools…

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