A Look Into The BTHS eSports Club

Audrey Yoo, Arts and Entertainment Editor

The BTHS eSports club was formed 5 years ago to connect the gamers of Brooklyn Tech, who today can earn a spot on the Overwatch, League of Legends, Teamfight Tactics, or Valorant club teams, and develop friendships in the bargain. 

Similar to Tech’s sports teams, the school’s eSports team also participates against other schools across New York City in the EZ eSports league. Alex Shannon (‘24), the co-president of the BTHS eSports club, called the Valorant team the “crown jewel” of the BTHS eSports club. The Valorant team’s “outstanding success” led to an invitation to compete in the HSEL, which is a national league for high school eSports. The team is currently in their pre-season for HSEL. With a $40 fee, the club was eager to spend some of their allocated club money to fund their entrance to the HSEL. Unfortunately, as Shannon acknowledges, the club funding has yet to be distributed, but the team is hopeful that the administration will recognize them as a Competing Team Club, so they can represent Tech in tournaments or leagues just like Model UN, Debate, and all other PSAL teams do.

Isaac Liu (‘23) is the Valorant team captain, also commonly known as the “in-game leader.” Liu defined his role as making “decisions for the team and trying to lead the team in the game.” He mentions that coaches are not allowed to speak to players unless a timeout is called, making Liu’s leadership extremely vital to the team during games. To be a good captain, Liu claimed that “you learn how to be very aware. You have to observe the entire map and help out your teammates and make calls based on your teammates positions.” These are some skills that can be learned and practiced within the Valorant team. 

However, Liu does not take full-credit for the leadership position. Landen Giambalvo (‘24) is the other Valorant team’s in-game-leader, and his team is on the way to HSEL. Liu said, “Being an in-game leader is a very difficult task, so in Team A, the responsibilities are split between 2 players, Landen and I. Landen does more of the strategy-calling, while I do more of analyzing enemies patterns.” In a team environment, even the captains work together. Luckily, Liu sees a positive future for the Valorant team, as they are “all very competitive and motivated already.” The team has been getting along well, but he cautiondc that “since we are a newly created roster, there are bound to be some difficulties in the future,” such as sportsmanship issues and schedule conflicts. 

Hailey Wong (‘23), the Valorant team’s coach, has a slightly different role from that of Liu, Giambalvo, and Shannon. Rather than providing tactical, skill-based advice, Wong specializes in something equally as important: team support. More specifically, “Since I’m silver [the third lowest rank in Valorant], I usually give moral support to the team and call timeouts during scrims when we go on a hard losing streak. I also offer to help find lineups if needed,” she remarked. Although the Valorant team members are not inherently unsportsmanlike, losing can be frustrating. This feeling leads to greater distress, but can be rectified by a positive change in mentality, which is brought about by Wong herself.

Since most of the Valorant players are ranked higher than Wong in the game’s competitive ranking system, Wong’s lower rank proves to be a challenge as coach. She struggles with “not having enough experience and skill to give some real advice and strategies that other people of the same skill level can offer.” 

Like the other executives, Wong takes pride in the eSports club. She described the club as generally a “nice group of people,” and she enjoys being able to “brag about the team and see how much they can achieve together.” She was also able to take on a main executive role in the eSports club, adding onto her role as the Valorant coach. As a club executive, she helps run the Instagram and Twitch accounts, and she even has the opportunities to cast in game streams!

Wong highlights some of her negative experiences with casting, where the Twitch chat was filled with comments about wondering who she was, what she looked like, if she was single, and more. One comment said, “I’d hit even if she was taken.” When someone proceeded to call this commenter “down bad,” the commenter responded with racial slurs. “Down bad” gamers cause discomfort among women who are merely trying to have fun or do their job; yet, responding with hostility and racism to these comments only makes the experiences of everyone even worse. The eSports club has been taking action to prevent such activities in their Twitch chats by banning people that make harassing and discriminatory comments. 

Aside from the difficulties of being in the eSports club, there are also newcomers who feel rewarded by the fun opportunities. Sasha Avteniev (‘23) is a player on the club’s Overwatch team, and this year is his first. His experience has been fun because he enjoys playing Overwatch, “and this game in particular is way better with an actual team.” He believes this is mostly because of communication. Playing alone would mean playing with five random people every time, “so when the pool that you play with becomes more consistent, it creates a better environment. You can actually effectively talk and plan if you need to.” However, the experience has also been disheartening because the number of Overwatch teams from other schools have been decreasing over the years. As a result, Avteniev has found “most of the matches pretty lackluster.” 

Zhihao Lu (‘23) is on the Teamfight Tactics team, with his “purpose of bringing glory to Brooklyn Tech.” The Brooklyn Tech TFT team competes in a city wide eSports competition, and players from all schools are separated into groups of 8 every week based on rankings from the previous week. Lu describes the team as fun and competitive, and “the journey is enjoyable because it’s just an escape from the mental drag of real League.” As for the competition itself, “We’re only on week five of eighteen weeks (one game per person per week),” so it is too early to measure the team’s success. However, Lu’s success is becoming quickly apparent as he placed first in two of his four games so far.

Although video games are often looked down upon due to the possibility of developing addiction and violent behavior, the eSports club shows many positive outcomes of video games. Leadership, teamwork, and trust are all skills that the players have developed over the many games they have played together. Friendship and connections are also other rewarding factors. 

Shannon describes the 20-person team as a “family,” as they ask each other for advice on gameplay, school, and relationships. He says that “their skill at playing video games has brought them closer to people than they could have ever imagined.” Shannon’s favorite part about being on the team is watching the players “excel at something they’re not only good at, but find fun, and connect with others.” He feels that “a big challenge that many highschoolers face is the feeling of being alone and not sharing any common interests with anyone,” but the BTHS eSports club is a large step in minimizing these feelings amongst young video gamers.