The Butte County Office of Education is introducing a new competitive sport to local high schools. eSports, or electronic sports are video game tournaments that the county says builds teamwork, leadership and communication skills in students.
eSports has been around since the seventies, but in recent years it's become a global phenomenon, complete with packed stadiums, celebrity athletes and huge cash prizes.
Analysts value the eSports, or the electronic sports market at 1.5 billion dollars. There's even a collegiate level, where scholarship money awaits some of the best gamers in the nation. Chico High's own Alexei Maximov got a full ride eSports college scholarship this year.
Now Butte County plans to level up local kids by bringing eSports to high schools. Enter the NCEL, or Northern California eSports League. It's a new group formed by the county to help kids compete in state and national high school esports competitions.
"You can tell in a school setting, which kid is the gamer because they are ahead of everyone else," says Jack Sheridan, one of the coaches for the incoming teams, "they know how everything works, what the computer wants them to type."
Students, we're told, will gain valuable experience points.
"With eSports there's no need to separate the boys and the girls team," Arianna Sells, of the NCEL told us, "everyone can bring their unique talents to the table, and work towards a single effort towards a common goal."
And if you're still not a believer in the benefit of video games, get this, Jerry Hight with the Butte County Office of Education says, he used to be the one telling his son to get off the gaming console. But since seeing the positive impact games have had on his son, Hight says that he's changed his mind completely.
"Gaming enhances critical thinking, enhances language arts, communication, and of course, digital literacy," he told us.
The NCEL eSports season kicks off in September, and state championship tournaments are at the end of the year.
If you'd like to sit in on an esports competition yourself, competitions will be held at the Sacramento King's arena. To sign up your school for the NCEL, you can get more information on the organization's website.