Sporting chance in virtual reality

DF Malan High Schools Team Espera, from left are, Michael Groenewald, Dylan Turner, Dillon Justus, Ruan Geldenhuys and Rhyn Muller.

Some of DF Malan High School’s most notable sporting achievements are now taking place not only on the rugby field, but in virtual reality, thanks to a group of online gamers who have made it to the top of a national log in an e-sport.

The school’s gaming team, Team Espera, is topping the log of Mind Sport South Africa’s (MSSA) Counterstrike: Global Offensive (CS: GO) rankings with 910.3 points, against 52 other schools.

MSSA is the national federation body for boardgames, e-sports and wargames. It selects national Protea teams for international competitions.

E-sports are played on personal computers; consoles, such as PlayStation and XBox, as well as mobile devices, such as tablets and smartphones.

Team Espera will have to work hard to keep in the lead, as Rondebosch Boys and Parklands College are hot on their heels, with schools vying for the win at the end of the year.

MSSA general secretary Colin Webster said that CS: Go is one of nine computer games promoted by MSSA.

It’s also one of the games that will be played at the International e-Sports Federation’s ( IeSF) eight world championships in Jakarta, in October.

Mr Webster said it took a lot to get e-sports into schools, but they are becoming more established.

“At first, there was resistance from principals and school governing bodies, but once the clubs were established and affiliated, schools quickly saw the many benefits and that the e-sport structure provides the school.

“As a result of this, a whole lot of new opportunities are being unlocked and offered to pupils countrywide.

“Pupils that earn provincial and national colours may earn university bursaries. There is also the opportunity of going overseas as part of the Protea team, and there is even the possibility of becoming a professional gamer.”

He added: “There is no doubt that the future of any sport depends on the activity at school level. If it is not played at school, the sport will wither and die.”

Team manager and player Michael Groenewald, 16, is glad that e-sports have been introduced at schools.

“I feel that the wider the variety of sports at schools is, the better, as more people are able to participate at school level in something they enjoy and may be very good at,” he said.

Whether highly physical or not, there’s ample skill and competition involved.

“The more schools get involved, the better.”

Michael has been involved in e-sport since the beginning of the year with the team all consisting of Grade 10 pupils.

“I got into contact with MSSA in January, as I wanted to establish a club at school, and by February I had gotten approval for the club from the school. We played our first game on Sunday February 20,” said Michael.

In 2013, DF Malan pupils made up most of the Protea Team that competed in the IeSF’s fifth world championship in Bucharest.

“The title of CounterStrike: GO seems to be dominated by teams from Cape Town with only Northcliff High School from Johannesburg offering any real threat. DF Malan seems determined to carry on with its winning ways, as the team dominates the school rankings and ladder for the title of CS: GO,” said Mr Webster.

The MSSA ladder ranks teams by points acquired throughout tournaments and teams may be challenged by other teams that are ranked within five places of themselves.

New teams enter at the bottom of the table and have to work their way to the top.

Michael said the team practises together three days a week, and on their own two days a week.

“We practise for about two hours a day. Saturdays and Sundays we don’t decide on an official time, but most of us still play at least four hours a day, and we play together a good portion of that time.”

Mr Webster said he is encouraged by the number of school teams making their way up the ladder.

“This bodes well for the future of gaming in South Africa,” he said.