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Esports Makes its Way to Fulton City School District, Offering Same Benefits as Traditional Team Athletics

G. Ray Bodley High School’s athletic offerings have expanded this summer with the formation of an esports team- a competitive video gaming program that offers students the same lessons and skills gained through participation in traditional team sports.

Through its membership with the High School Esports League, GRB’s esports student athletes collaborate and strategize to compete against regional and national high school esports teams.

“Esports is much more than ‘playing video games’,” GRB Principal Donna Parkhurst said. “It is a way for students to compete by problem solving and thinking critically.”

The league offers student athletes popular games including Hearthstone, NBA 2K21, Minecraft: Survival Games, and Super Smash Bros: Ultimate, however, games labeled “mature” by the Entertainment Software Rating board will not be played in the district.

Kyle Perry, a district instructional technology teacher who oversees Fulton’s esports team, is already seeing students develop sportsmanship skills in the weeks since the program began.

“One thing I’ve already learned is these kids can really come together and it truly is a regular sports team,” Perry said. “They have a designated time where they come together and they’re learning the same things you are with traditional sports, like teamwork and communication, just in a different venue.”

The team’s athletes, six of whom compete in-person at the high school, have access to four PS4 systems and four Xbox consoles. PC gaming systems, he said, have been ordered.

“I think it’s been very successful and the kids enjoy it,” Perry said. “Hopefully in the fall we will have more of a turnout.”

Newzoo’s 2021 Global Esports and Live Streaming Market Report estimates esports industry revenue to reach $1.1 billion for the first time as U.S. colleges and universities increasingly market their esports teams to attract potential students.