By Michael Nacey ’19
CCS esports is coming to Bellarmine. Because of its status as the fastest growing sport in America, with millions of sponsors, viewers, and scholarships, because of the hundreds of CIF schools already playing esports in California, and because of its almost status as an almost 2-billion-dollar industry. “Bellarmine prides itself on giving something for everyone. This is an example of how people at Bellarmine can get involved,” asserts Mr. Sullivan, Bellarmine’s athletic director. It is an opportunity for the creation of student-athletes, where “stamina is needed, but not [in] a six-minute mile.” The goal is to start in the fall of 2019.
This creates more questions than answers. For instance, what games will be included? Will violence be accepted? How will teams be organized? Where will practices be? How will competitions be organized? Moreover, the institution of CCS esports at Bellarmine will transform the idea of a student-athlete and produce interesting changes in how Bellarmine’s athletics will operate.
“I strongly believe that Bellarmine should encourage, foster, and help cultivate a culture that is more inclusive and allows people to feel that just because you love video games and competing in [them] doesn’t make you any less than your fellow Bellarmine brother who is on the football team,” say Gabriel Young ’19.
I’m in Sobrato 102, down a long hallway past the stairs in Sobrato, sitting on a couch in the corner of the room with Gabriel Young ’19. As we partake in some speculation, a student plays Overwatch in a desk next to us, and a small group huddles in front of the diminutive screen of a Nintendo Switch, playing Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Says Mr. Young ’19, “I believe Bellarmine should take into the content of these games that they are just games.” Nevertheless, he adds that ESRB ratings should be taken into consideration, and that restrictions on age and content should be put in place.
If you want to read further on speculations about CCS esports at Bellarmine, check out our Q and A with Mr. Cozort.
In fact, many of these questions regarding the logistics of CCS esports have been answered. According to Mr. Sullivan, games that are sports-related like Fifa or Madden are fair game, but most first-person shooters, such as Fortnite, are not. The target is to find educationally-based, competitive games emphasizing the student-athlete which can also be career developing. Practices could take place in classrooms, which could be the sites of competitions as well. These competitions would be organized like CCS sports like football or soccer with round-robin play culminating in a CCS championship. Some areas are still mysterious. For example, now is the time to make your guess at the future Bellarmine esports coach.
Some faculty important in the decision to add esports at Bellarmine are skeptical about CCS esports and its future place in the Bellarmine community. “We’re not ruling it out completely,” Mrs. Luscher stated, adding on that esports would not be incorporated in the Bellarmine athletics program, but as a co-curricular. Violence is another problem with esports and will be “absolutely disqualified” as counteracting Bellarmine’s mission. Nevertheless, Mrs. Luscher in not disqualifying it: “I’m questioning how comfortable are we, and does it fall in line with our mission? And where do we draw the line? I think that would be something that we would have to really be clear about.”
Another crucial question about adding esports to Bellarmine’s plethora of co-educational opportunities is that of sexism in video games. The video game industry has crafted games catering to the fantasies of their target demographic for decades, primarily boys. “[Women] are pushed out of the way by the male population who are surrounding the gaming industry,” Gabriel Young ’19 mentioned, who led a breakout session on gender in video games during the 2019 Justice Summit. Idealized visions of women have been the focus on many video games, such as the Tomb Raider and Bayonetta series, Bayonetta being a character in the newest Super Smash Bros. game. In recent years, the video gaming industry has recognized the size and influence of their female fanbase and have begun to rectify their misrepresentations of women in the past.
Esports has the same story and continues to display an overwhelmingly male array of professional gamers, despite a large female fanbase. One challenge Bellarmine can seek to address in evaluating esports is responding to this imbalance in the industry. There is a myriad of solutions, all of which hinging on the non-physical aspect of esports. Anyone can play with anyone else. “It allows for people of all identities to come together and celebrate something mutual towards each other,” said Gabriel. Therefore, Bellarmine could partner with all-female schools such as Presentation or Notre Dame in competitions. We could have co-ed teams or co-ed competitions, both of which would help to reveal the true popularity of video gaming in the Bay Area.
Ultimately, the possibility of CCS esports coming to Bellarmine is answered by a yes-or-no question. Its effects are much more complex, raising valuable questions about athleticism, gender, violence, and many other issues that Bellarmine can seek to address. Esports is an immense industry on the rise, however, and the pressures to participate will undoubtedly increase in the future.
This creates more questions than it answers. For instance, what games will be included? Will violence be accepted? How will teams be organized? Where will practices be? How will competitions be organized? Many of these questions already have answers. Here they are, courtesy of Mr. Sullivan.