It’s been a year since the idea for Gamer League turned from an idea into a group of thriving kids using esports to develop sportsmanship, leadership and kindness. In this post, I’m going to share a consolidated list of the events we had last year so that others can learn from our experiences.

The need for Gamer League is real, in fact, it’s greater than I expected. I believe in the use of sports as a critical part of youth development. In my mind, the determination, the connection between practice and results, and the dynamics of being on a team, are skills we develop. What we learn from sports directly translates to the skills we need to be part of a business, run a family, and succeed in our world.

But traditional sports doesn’t touch all kids. We are all born and develop different physical abilities at different times and in a small window of time, many kids self-select as being sports-minded or not.

Esports are different. It levels the playing field for youth development by keeping the elements of sport: practice, winning, loosing, focus, etc., while minimizing the emphasis on physicality. It has less physical bias, crosses gender, and speaks to all kids, including a subset of our community, whose parents told me in many different emails and conversations, how Gamer League is something that their child greatly needs.

Here’s what we did last year:

Gaming & Dodgeball
Our first events started with the friends. We met at a park, used our cell phones as lans, and played Splatoon. To reinforce the need to balance sedentary gaming with other aspects of life, we broke up the gameplay with a game of dodgeball.

Labo Club
Our second event was a Labo afterschool club. It was a lot of fun and a great way to grow our group. It was; however, a lot of work. I ran the club with ten kids and the shuttling of ten Labo kits and flying cardboard was difficult but doable. I can’t imagine running this event with more than ten kids per one adult.

Microsoft & Digipen Field Trip
This was a sensational event. Some friends at Microsoft helped set up a few meet & greets with Xbox developers and some researchers. We played a game of stump the developers who worked on Minecraft. The kids schooled him on many aspects of the game that was outside of his programming purview. Digipen, a game development university, gave us an amazing tour and a class on game development. The plus: it was amazing. The con: we could only take a small group and the idea is difficult to scale now that we have a bigger group.

Books for Games
We partnered with our local library to run an event where gamers earned eshop gift cards for reading and presenting on books on topics like programming, game development, sports psychology, leadership, etc. It was a fun an easy event to pull off. The library was very enthusiastic about bringing kids into the library. Some parents chipped in and helped defray some of the costs.

Winter League
Winter League was the crown jewel of our year. We hosted around 35 kids for Friday night games, playing Splatoon 2 and Rocket League. This was a huge success.

This was our format:
-Discuss a lesson such as sportsmanship. 5 minutes.
-Learn three skills individually. 15 minutes total.
-Choose teams. Practices skills as a team. 15 minutes total.
-Play a tournament. 60-80 minutes.

The format was designed to be easy to produce, yet still engaging. Trying to explain esports to parents is difficult, but once they saw the competition and camaraderie, it’s was blatantly clear that this form of competition fits in the rotation of events kids should have access to.

University of Washington, the site of Don’t Park On The Grass 2019.

First Competitive Team
We took our first competitive team to Don’t Park on The Grass. A competitive tournament at the University of Washington. We got beat -badly. But that’s OK, we had a blast. Now we know what to expect and we will vindicate ourselves next year.

Next Year.
This year, we hope to expand our events and our audience, raise some funding, formalize the entity as a non-profit, and help others run gamer league events in their area. Also, now that we’ve built a group we have some parents that can help add a new fall league whereby teams are formed and used across an entire season, unlike this year’s winter league that formed new teams every night.

Here’s to GamerLeague’s 2nd year in development!

Gamer League’s First Year in Youth Esports