Walls E-Sports Group Receives Athletic Team Funding After DCSAA Qualification
Kingston Stephen (‘24), part of the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate team / Credits: Nick Nikolov
The Walls e-sports team has begun to receive athletic team funding from the Walls HSA after qualifying as an athletic team by the District of Columbia State Athletic Association (DCSAA), which oversees postseason high school sporting contests.
Kip Smith, the Walls registrar and athletic director, said that while DCSAA does not directly fund e-sports, its recognition of the Walls group as an athletic team qualifies it for HSA support, given that it “compete[s] in interscholastic activities.”
The team had received funding only as a club from the Walls HSA since its founding in October 2018. Mr. Smith added that team leaders at Walls “do not determine the funding allotment” from DCSAA.
Sponsor and self-described “e-sports elder” Jason Bulluck said that while both a club and a team exist as two separate groups with a lot of overlap, only the team is receiving athletic funding. “We don’t administer the funding,” he said. “The E-Sports Club has done their own fundraising. The e-sports team specifically is sponsored by the DCSAA. I’m not involved in that decision-making.”
He specified that he could request necessities for competition, “but other than that, things just kind of come to you.”
The team has competed against other schools, including Eastern Senior High School on Wednesdays virtually and at an invitational where a few members played and started to form the [Nintendo Super Smash Bros.] team, according to Kargatis. “If it’s a video game, if it’s played on a computer, a PC, a console, maybe even a phone, … we will play the game,” Kargatis said. Mr. Bulluck said “the first year that there were e-sports in D.C., Walls won the DCSAA League of Legends tournament” against schools across the country.
Co-leader Thor Kargatis (‘23) said he, Mr. Bulluck and co-leader Nick Nikolov (‘23) “are figuring out what direction we want to take the club” with its new resources.
The team hopes to use funding primarily for equipment and operation fees. “Our first priority now is to make sure we have equipment because we’ve had some issues with equipment theft,” Kargatis said. “We also need additional console[s].”
Mr. Bulluck added that e-sports has “a pretty low cost, aside from the infrastructure that's already there, like for example the internet and computers. The only thing we do pay for are subscription fees to leagues [which] contract and hire out referees to schools and provide a platform to play a bunch of games competitively.”
The club has installed a new Ethernet system (technology for connecting devices in a local area network) to avoid school Wi-Fi connection issues.
Kargatis said new equipment means they may be able to start hosting school-wide competitions. These tournaments would include Smash, Mario Kart, and Tetris, “because they’re something everyone can easily get into,” Kargatis said. “Depending on how successful these are, we can expand it to other games.”
Although “a lot of people discount the medium of video games as something that rots your brain or makes you antisocial or makes you worse at everything else,” Kargatis said, he doesn’t think that’s true. “I’d argue video games have a lot of potential. ... They don’t take up physical space, the barrier[s] to entry [and cost are] low, and you can actually become more social through video games. ... If you’re a nerd, and need some extracurriculars for college, this is worth your time.”
“Schools have Division I e-sports programs,” Mr. Bulluck said. “You can get recruited out of high school to get a full athletic ride to college playing e-sports. Pro e-sports players make hundreds of thousands, or millions of dollars. It’s like other emerging sports, and established economically.”
While some may call e-sports less legitimate sports, Mr. Bulluck said it was “silly to turn it into a zero-sum proposition, like this should get money or this shouldn’t get money, because this is more or less a sport. When the kids wanna do a thing, give them the money to do the thing, to follow their hearts and their minds; you support it.”
The E-Sports Club meets on Fridays and Wednesdays at 3:30 p.m. in Room 27.