SALT LAKE CITY — Video gaming is now an official high school sport in Utah.
The announcement was made Saturday at the Utah State Capitol.
“What we are doing here today in Utah is going to become a national model and show every other state how to do it,” said Bob Sorenson of iTEAM USA, one of the groups behind the initiative.
State Sen. Daniel Thatcher (R-West Valley City) helped organize the effort, spearheaded by iTEAM USA and PlayVS, to give students a chance at what is quickly becoming a cutting edge sport.
The hope is that "esports" will lead students to a career in the field of computer sciences here in Utah.
“It will open up more opportunities for our students,” said Joel Marquez, a computer science education specialist with the Utah Department of Education. “What I want the kids to know is there is a career in this.”
As Silicon Slopes experiences massive growth, organizers cite more than 4,600 tech job openings in Utah.
According to Sorenson, the average salary in the industry is $86,000, nearly double the average non-tech salary in Utah.
“Students are the winners,” Sorenson said. “Esports is the gate to I.T. [information technology] and C.S. [computer science]. It gives students a connection and a different view of tech.”
The esports program will be available at schools up and down the state.
Organizers believe it will help prepare students to join the workforce in many ways.
“There is a stigma with gamers. An anti-social stigma,” Marquez said. “I've seen 250 students come together of all different genres and become friends and have fun doing this. That created a place of belonging for them.”
Students can compete in the games, “League of Legends,” “Super Smash Brothers,” and “Rocket League.”
The cost to join a team is $64. Visit the PlayVS website for more information.