Path to an esports state championship in PA starts in March
The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Esports Association (PIEA) officially launched its 2021 High School Esports season on Thursday, announcing that the regulatory body will host competitions in Overwatch and Rocket League this spring. The two events will run from March until May 2021, culminating in the crowning of State Champions in each game title.
With PIEA being one of the first high school governing bodies solely focused on esports programs and clubs in the country, the organization's regulatory framework and structure will help push the growth of esports in more communities across the Commonwealth, and provide the necessary stability for an annual state championship tournament in approved game titles.
Landgon Ramsburg, a member of the PIEA Board of Directors and one if its co-founders, said that there is a significant demand for a path to a state championship within the high school esports community. And that requires taking the time to develop a regulatory structure that helps esports grow while protecting students and schools.
“We’ve seen firsthand the positive impact that esports can have on students and schools as a whole, which is why we are committed to providing equitable and regulated competition to Pennsylvania’s high school esports programs,” Ramsburg said. “There is such a demand for schools to compete against their long-standing rivals in a structured environment similar to traditional high school sports. The PIEA exists to do just that, while at the same time empowering the next generation of esports and gaming talent to pursue their passion and advance their education in STEM.”
Several high schools across the Commonwealth have expressed interest and excitement in joining the PIEA, saying the organization will help bring stability to a growing industry and provide a path to a state championship that means a lot to communities and school districts. Since the organization will be member-driven, it is vital for schools to be a part of the PIEA’s structure.
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PIEA has also sought to build relationships with critical partners in the high school esports space. Ramsburg said the PIEA has established a strong alliance with the Pennsylvania Scholastic Esports League (PSEL), who will provide technology, curriculum and career development support to PIEA members, competitions and championships. The PSEL, led by the Chester County Intermediate Unit (CCIU), focuses on providing students a safe and structured environment to play while focusing on learning and inclusivity.
In addition, PIEA will be working closely with Estars Studios, the leading independent production company for esports and video games, and Boom.tv, the leading esports entertainment platform and hub, through the company's AVGL platform. Ramsburg said Boom.tv's platforms will provide PIEA and its member schools with a fully integrated and state-of-the-art tournament support. These relationships will provide a professional backbone to high school competitions, giving students a high quality product with advanced curriculum and career opportunities.
This is the PIEA's second attempt at a statewide tournament. The 2020 PIEA Championship season was cancelled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to the season’s cancellation, the league had more than 35 teams registered to compete. And with the popularity of esports on continuing to grow over the last year, the PIEA anticipates an even higher number of teams competing in 2021.