OKLAHOMA CITY – Parents often have to ask their kids to put down the video games to do their homework – but what if it is their homework?
With the launch of “esports” at all three high schools, the Putnam City District in Oklahoma City is now the largest district-wide esports program in the state.
It puts them on track for a potential career path and scholarships.
It looks like something that would take place outside of school: kids just being kids.
“I love it,” said Putnam City West senior Katie Doyle. “I love it so much.”
But it’s no party – it’s a classroom at Putnam City West.
There are no pencils or textbooks, but there are controllers and video games.
It’s top-of-the-line equipment.
“We have the motion-capture lab in the room, we have brand new computers all around the room,” said teacher Jeffrey Bishop.
All of this is available at school, but not too available.
“We have $120,000 plus in the room of brand-new equipment just this year,” Bishop said. “All bolted down so it doesn’t sprout legs and walk away.”
It’s been made available through three grants written by Bishop.
During the school day, he helps students get the fundamentals of making video games. After school, he’s the coach of the esports team, teaching the kids strategy.
“A lot of people don’t think that it’s necessarily a sport but it so totally and completely is a sport because of the dynamics in being able to play against each other,” Bishop said. “It’s pretty awesome.”
Bishop and these kids are part of a nationwide trend, breaking the stereotype that playing video games is a waste of time.
“Just because they’re playing inside doesn’t make it horrible and awful and evil,” he said.
Major tournaments are now providing cash prizes and some are making a career out of competing.
Bishop says many universities, even local ones, are now offering scholarships. But it’s not just for playing.
His ultimate goal is to one day have a class where kids develop their own game to show to companies.
“I’m looking into trying to get these kids into an industry,” said Bishop.
But for many of these kids, it’s about something even deeper.
“There’s people I didn’t think I’d ever meet if it wasn’t for this,” said Brock Tevebaugh, a junior at Putnam City West.
“We’re part of a tribe together, we’re part of a family together so those video games give them an excuse to basically bond,” Bishop said.
Students have to keep up their grades to stay in esports, just like other sports.
Some of them will be participating in the OCU Esports River Rumble tournament in downtown Oklahoma City this weekend.