Simplified: South Dakota's first-ever esports state tournament takes place this weekend, and it'll be a fully sanctioned sport starting in the fall. Sioux Falls Simplified checked in on what's happening locally with this emerging sport.

Why it matters

  • Esports are video games played competitively – often with an audience – and globally it's become a billion-dollar industry.
  • While global tournaments can rival the Superbowl in terms of viewership, there's also an increasing desire for esports at the high school level. South Dakota ran a pilot program for high school esports this year that included 20 schools with plans to fully sanction the sport in the next school year.
  • In Sioux Falls, there are 20 students on the high school esports team, and Coach Jonathan Halleen said his team works together just like kids would in any other sport.
"You don't think of football as just some stupid game – it's something the kids put so much time and effort into that they can carry through their lives," Halleen said. "That's what I think esports can truly become for a lot of kids."

How do esports work?

If there's a competitive multiplayer video game, chances are good there's some type of esports league around it.

  • Some of the most popular esport games are League of Legends, Valorant, Fortnite, Mario Kart and more.

For the Sioux Falls team, students play primarily League of Legends, a tower defense game where players work together to protect their home base, or Rocket League, a game that's essentially soccer with cars.

  • A typical practice involves a recap of the last practice, in which students talk about pros and cons of a past game as well as how they can improve communication in the future.
  • Then, the students break up into their teams to practice their respective games.

The new esports team is also giving Sioux Falls kids a new option for extracurricular activities, including those who maybe otherwise wouldn't have the experience of being on a team.

"Being able to have these moments and watch them grow as a community has been just fantastic," Halleen said.

Halleen knows there can be stigma about kids playing video games or about the games being bad for kids, but for him, it's all about moderation and teamwork.

"You wouldn't have the football or basketball players out practicing all night," he said. "I'm not vouching for kids to just be on Fortnite all night ... but I do think we need to stop stigmatizing video games as much."

Tell me more about the tournament

More than 160 students are expected to compete for four championship titles in Brookings this weekend.

  • The event is free and open to the public, and games played include Super Smash Bros., League of Legends, Rocket League and chess.

For tournament sponsor SDN Communications, supporting esports is natural fit for the company of internet service providers, said Ryan Dutton, vice president of sales and marketing.

  • There's also an element of workforce development to having more kids participating in esports.
"These kids who are interested in esports are showing an acumen for technology and whats next," Dutton said. "And they could be potential talent for our organizations in the future."

Find more details and a tournament schedule here.