Changing the game: Could esports be the future of athletics?

According to, esports have a bigger viewer base than both the MLB and the NBA

NISD esports (NISD)

With casual and professional gamers all around the world, it’s no secret that the gaming industry has become increasingly popular within the last decade.

The increased growth of the gaming industry has led to the emergence of another major market— esports. Now, what parents may have once seen as a childish hobby has evolved into a way for kids to kickstart a career.

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Within the last decade, there has been quite a buzz around esports with the invention of platforms like Twitch, Facebook Gaming, and Owncast. Gaming competitions, however, have existed since the late 1970s with shows like TV Powww and Starcade, where contestants would play arcade games against each other for cash prizes.

According to, esports have grown to be worth over 4.3 billion USD and have a bigger viewer base than both the MLB and the NBA. While the majority of Esports coverage revolves around professional gamers competing for multi-million dollar prizes, school districts across the U.S. have also begun to capitalize on the advantages of esports, including the Northside Independent School District.

Originally started as a way to incentivize a return to in-person learning during the fall of 2021, the NISD sports league has grown to include 20 middle schools and 11 high schools. It has provided students with a gateway to college education through various scholarships and recruiting opportunities. Additionally, the league partners with organizations like the High School Esports League, Middle School Esports League, and Riot Games’s League Unlocked program to provide participating students with even more benefits, both in and out of the game.

Both the HSEL and MSEL tout what they call a “holistic esports solution”, which aims to integrate scholastic gaming experiences into schools through STEM or CTE curriculum and esports training programs. As indicated by the HSEL website, students playing within the league have even earned over $600,000 in scholarships since its creation in 2012. Additionally, according to, over 170 colleges in the United States have now established esports teams, and are providing both partial and full rides to high school esports athletes.

As of now, participating middle and high schools currently compete in both a fall and spring tournament season. Fall competitors play Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros Ultimate and spring competitors play Nintendo’s Mario Kart 8. High schoolers also have the ability to play League of Legends in the fall and Rocket League in the spring.

“Nobody is doing it at the level that we are, especially intramural competition,” said Matt Frymire, an Academic Technology coordinator for Northside who oversees esports.

Currently, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate players compete in the fall high school or middle school qualifier tournament and are narrowed down to a top eight, or a top four for Rocket League teams. Those who advance go on to play at the fall all-level championships for a trophy and accolades. Similarly, Mario Kart 8 and League of Legends teams go through the same process in the spring.

As for the future of Northside esports, Frymire says he’s looking for “a permanent space at every high school for this.”

With the swift expansion of the program, there’s no doubt that esports is here to stay.

**This article was published through a partnership between KSAT and NISD.

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