Students at Mandan High School with an affinity for video games will soon have an opportunity to engage in their favorite hobby as a legitimized extracurricular activity. The high school has announced it will become the 14th high school in North Dakota to create a competitive esports team.

Yes, you read that right; an activity many of our parents harassed us for doing to much of in our childhoods will soon be a school-affiliated team.

But what is esports? For those uninitiated, esports are quite simply competitive video games. Teams of players join forces to compete with other teams in popular video games such as Fortnite, Rocket League, Madden, League of Legends, and many more.

At this point I can already see some of you shaking your heads, your eyes glazing over at the thought. "What is the point," you might ask, "Who cares?"

Turns out, a lot of people. Esports is a quickly growing industry, with one report showing it generated over $900 million in revenue last year. The same report indicated 380 million people watch esports annually, and that number is only expected to keep growing as it gains more exposure to mainstream media. ESPN has already begun televising select esports events on its networks. Businesses are already taking notice with brands investing $694 million into the industry in the form of advertisements, as well as events and team sponsorships. That number is projected to grow to $1.4 billion by 2021.

Mandan Superintendent Dr. Mike Bitz told KX News the school decided to invest and form an esports team after a survey of the high school's students showed 181 would have interest in participating in an esports program.

“If we can take 181 students that are maybe underrepresented or not involved in activities and involve them in activities and give them a sense of belonging, then that’s a good return on our investment,” Bitz told KX News.

That investment is $20,000 for the construction and equipping of an esports lab as well as salary for a coach and any incidentals.The school is still currently looking to find a coach, and the program is set to kick off this October. Because every competition is done online, there will be no travel costs, and no student that tries out will be cut due to skill level.

ND High Schools with an esports team:

  • Central Cass High School
  • Dakota Prairie High School
  • Drayton High School
  • Grand Forks Central High School
  • Hillsboro High School
  • Larimore High School
  • Mandan High School
  • Minnewaukan High School
  • Northern Cass High School
  • Northwood High School
  • Red River High School
  • Rugby High School
  • Westhope High School
  • Williston High School

Esports is also reaching the collegiate level in North Dakota with Bismarck State College, University of Jamestown, and Dickinson State University all set to launch teams this year.