Middletown’s computer gaming club thrives during coronavirus shutdown

Though the novel coronavirus shutdown of Ohio’s K-12 schools has ended almost all after-school clubs, one at Middletown High School is continuing with students remotely.

The nature of the school’s computer gaming club allows its members to continue to learn – and compete in national competitions – from home, said Middletown school officials.

But the Butler County school’s new ESports Club isn’t just fun and games.

Participating students are learning computer program coding and other digital skills, said Joe Stringer, who is an advanced placement physics teacher and supervisor of the club.

“Just like any sport, ESports requires fundamentals in practice, teamwork and sportsmanship,” Stringer said. “Not only are these skills necessary for sports, but they are also critical life skills.”

The Ohio ESports League also has connections with coaches at the collegiate level, which can lead to scholarship opportunities, said Stringer.

Miami University Middletown invited students to observe ESports at the collegiate level and learn how a degree in emerging technology in business plus design will serve students that are passionate about virtual gaming, he said.

Before the coronavirus shutdown in March – a state order later modified last week by officials closing all in-person classes for the rest of the school year – private donations allowed the club to purchase about a dozen computer consoles and gaming devices for members to compete in online contests with other teens across the nation.

“ESports is an online sporting match, and it is very similar to other high school sports. Every week we would scout our opponents to figure out their strengths and weaknesses,” said Stringer.

“During the match, players need to be in constant communication with each other to overcome a challenge. It is this that I want my players to understand; what it means to be a team and unit and family and how to work together to overcome obstacles,” he said.

“School is not only about content and core classes. A lot of students need to feel there is something they can work towards that gives them enjoyment,” he said.

Elizabeth Beadle, spokeswoman for Middletown Schools, said “the interest in the new Esports Club was amazing, and it really goes to show you that education is constantly evolving.”

“ESports is much more than playing video games - it’s coding and strategy. The Middletown school administrators visited Miami University to meet with the academic advisor of the emerging technology in business design major, and we were amazed by what this degree can offer students,” Beadle said.

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