You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

New eSports team looks to bring students together at St. John's Prep

St. Cloud Times logo St. Cloud Times 10/22/2019 Zach Dwyer, St. Cloud Times
a man sitting in front of a laptop: Shuchen Liu smiles during a game of "League of Legends" Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019, at St. John's Prep. © Zach Dwyer, zdwyer@stcloudtimes.com Shuchen Liu smiles during a game of "League of Legends" Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019, at St. John's Prep.

COLLEGEVILLE — Only a year ago, Charles Miller, a teacher at St. John's Prep, had never even heard of the popular eSports game "League of Legends." Now he's leading a team of students competing against other high schoolers around the country.

"League of Legends" is an online game that's free to play, which makes it very popular for younger gamers. Streams of pro matches are also very accessible on platforms like Twitch for fans to follow along with the top players in the world. About 99.6 million people watched the "League of Legends World Championship," with more people watching than the 98.2 million who watched the Super Bowl.

The catalyst for Miller's introduction to the game was Ray Griffin, a professional "League of Legends" player who graduated from St. John's Prep in 2016. A group of over 20 Prep students from a number of countries watched him play in a recent attempt to qualify for the world championships in September.

While his team Counter Logic Gaming came up just short of qualifying for worlds, it left quite an impression on the students.

"I had known 'League of Legends' was popular," Miller said. "I started talking about Ray's success, and they had known about his success but not that he was from St. John's Prep. They wanted to know if (they) could have a 'League of Legends' team."

The club held its first scrimmages a few weeks ago, one against another high school in Missouri and also against a college team in New York. St. John's Prep recently made the club an official team, making it the first of its kind as a sanctioned eSports team in Central Minnesota. This means players will be able to letter like any other sport or activity.

"I want to regard the 'League of Legends' team as the same way I regard basketball or any other traditional sport, senior Mekan Mamedov, who is also captain of the basketball team, said. "People view (eSports) differently. I want kids that don't do physical sports to still feel involved in an activity that gets recognition."

a group of people standing in a room: Players from St. John's Prep scrimmage a college team in "League of Legends" Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019. © Zach Dwyer, zdwyer@stcloudtimes.com Players from St. John's Prep scrimmage a college team in "League of Legends" Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019.

The experience level on the team ranges from some who have been playing for only a year to others who have been ranking up for six or seven years. The team went 4-0 in its first week of live play and will be competing in PlayVS, which is the national platform for high school "League of Legends."

Miller said the team began by scrimmaging an established college team to get beat by some of the best and learn from it. This was a strategy that Ray Griffin's team employed when it went to South Korea for a "boot camp" to play against the best in the world.

The experience helped turn Griffin's team from a 7-11 record in the spring season to 12-6 in the summer, finishing third in the standings.

"After boot camp, their style changed, and they seemed to be able to work better together," Ray's mom, Jude Griffin, said last month. "They made a lot of progress this year, and they were disappointed not to make it worlds. Millions of kids want your job ... it's a very competitive situation."

Griffin had a standout year and finished fourth in MVP voting for the summer season. He also gained some long-term stability after signing a two-year contract with Counter Logic Gaming this year.

"It's really cool that an alum of St. John's Prep is a professional player," senior Luc Westling said. "I was watching professional league and I didn't even know he was an alum."

Players from St. John's Prep scrimmage a college team in "League of Legends" Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019. © Zach Dwyer, zdwyer@stcloudtimes.com Players from St. John's Prep scrimmage a college team in "League of Legends" Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019.

Bridging the gap

St. John's Prep has a large number of international students who live in dorms at the school. This can create a gap beyond language or cultural barriers that may separate students from others who live in the St. Cloud area.

Beyond the goals of a successful season of growth and building the team in its first season, students hope "League of Legends" can serve as an avenue to build a better sense of community at the school.

"eSports is a growing thing; a lot of the dormers play 'League of Legends,' but don't really talk about it with day students," Mamedov said. "This is a platform to bridge the gap ... we're hoping that it takes off."

The team has about 15 members competing, with as many as 20 interested in joining. This allows teams to be divided into varsity, junior varsity and C team — like other traditional sports. The 5-on-5 online matches are intense and ever-changing, so collaborating and communicating are at a premium during a match.

"It's the same as all sports, where you can't win a soccer game by yourself," Mamedov said. "We have to work together."

"I'd say it's even more team-reliant than other sports," Westling added.

a man wearing a suit and tie talking on a cell phone: St. John's Prep teacher Charles Miller speaks with his "League of Legends" players Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019, at St. John's Prep. © Zach Dwyer, zdwyer@stcloudtimes.com St. John's Prep teacher Charles Miller speaks with his "League of Legends" players Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019, at St. John's Prep.

Coach Miller has described the game as if you were playing chess, but all the pieces can change what they do at different times and your personal strategy depends on what the other pieces are doing.

"You have to adapt to changing game-play and the level of competition every second ... it's intense teamwork and cooperation," Miller said. "It's working on collaboration and settling disagreements like any sport."

Miller said the team has lofty goals of making the tournament in its PlayVS national league and competing well at the Minnesota Varsity League tournament in the winter, which is held for Minnesota high school teams. He's also hopeful the introduction of more teams will lead to the sport being sanctioned by the Minnesota State High School League.

But for now a free-to-play video game is doing wonders in bringing students from totally different backgrounds together.

"It's great for our school to have that competition for something they're passionate about," Miller said. "Now they're ready to play with other classmates and form new friendships."

Follow Zach Dwyer on Twitter @sctimeszach or call 320-406-5660. Send an email to zdwyer@stcloudtimes.com.

Loading...

This article originally appeared on St. Cloud Times: New eSports team looks to bring students together at St. John's Prep

AdChoices

More From St. Cloud Times

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon