Molloy Esports Overwatch Community Invitational a Success

By Jordan Lauterbach

Newsday - January 26, 2019

Aurora Filan spent Saturday afternoon playing video games with her friends.

But this wasn't your ordinary weekend hangout. No, this was serious business. Filan, a senior at Bay Shore High School, was among the nearly 40 students who competed in the Molloy Esports Overwatch Community Invitational at the Madison Theatre on the campus of Molloy College. Syosset won the event, defeating teams from Bay Shore and Sachem North.

High school students competed in the Molloy Esports Overwatch Community.

Players sat at computers on the Madison Theatre stage, while images of their game were projected onto a giant screen for spectators and non-playing teammates to watch.

"It was absolutely astonishing," Filan said.

It took the Syosset team about six hours to win the round-robin tournament. "That was probably the most fun I've ever had playing a video game," said Syosset sophomore Burleigh Horan. "Video games is my biggest hobby and my heart's never raced that fast in a competitive environment."

Esports, which essentially is competitive video gaming, has grown into a billion-dollar industry over the past few years. There are professional video gaming leagues with huge followings. NYIT and Molloy College both have programs and competed at NYCB Live's Nassau Coliseum in December.

And, it's growing rapidly on the high school level, too. Eleven teams on Long Island compete in the High School Esports League, a nationwide league that features 14 games and more than 600 teams.

Aside from her love of video games, Filan said that the sense of community attached to competitive video gaming attracted her to join Bay Shore team three months ago.

"It's just such a wonderful environment to be in," she said. "Events like this create such amazing team bonding. You experience things together, you work in the same environment...It's really fun and really helps build friendships."

"Video games have always been a major part of my life," said Dawson Golove, who helped establish the Syosset team in the fall. "Ever since I was six years old, I've been playing, talking and watching video games. Time came around and I went into high school and my parents said 'you have to play a sport....When I noticed that there were other kids like me, who wanted to get inside of a competitive setting and do something within a team environment, I wanted to offer to offer an opportunity for all students to be able to do something that they would actively enjoy and seek"  

Golove said it was intense but a lot of fun. Each match comprised approximately a half hour of non-stop action. "I'm not much of a physical kid," Golove said. "I'm still competitive, but I don't want to hit someone or tackle them."

Students from the Molloy College eSports team playing eSports.
While esport players compete at the club level for now, the New York Public High School Athletic Association has begun exploring the possible implementation of esports into their organizational reach. However, executive director Dr. Robert Zayas expects it to be a slow process and said it would most likely take 'years' before it is sanctioned at the state championship level.

Zayas met with administrators from across the state and his office in Latham Tuesday to begin exploratory discussions into adding esports to the state's athletic offering.

"I'm just interested in the appeal," Zayas said Wednesday. "What's the appeal for kids to play and what's the appeal for people to watch other people play video games? I'm not a gamer, I've never been involved in that.... I think we're years away from even sanctioning it as a state championship or anything like that."

While many or all of Saturday's players may be long graduated before the first state esports championship, they would love to see one.

"Absolutely, I think it should happen," Filan said. "While this doesn't take physical exertion, with the mental game and your thought process, it takes as much practice as a real sport. It creates the same environment, the same type of bonding, you're just not exerting energy. You still get the same feeling of glory when you win and the same sadness when you lose. It deserves to be state sport with a state championship."

Photo credit: Newsday / Melissa Kramer