Ben Brown, Danny Renshaw, Mathias Speer, Hayden Lusby and Jens Shorey pose before an esports match at Tri-Valley School. Kesslyn Tench Technology Manager Denali Borough School District

Esports has been a blossoming activity throughout the Interior.

The Alaska School Activities Association made esports, or competitive video gaming, a sanctioned school activity in April, opening up the possibility for teams to form in Alaska high schools.

This semester, North Pole High School, Lathrop High School and Hutchison High School have their own esports teams, according to Assistant Superintendent Shaun Kraska with the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District. Lathrop is already participating in competitions, while Hutchison is practicing regularly.

“The state championship will be in the spring, and the dates will be determined by ASAA,” Kraska wrote in response to a Daily News-Miner email.

Approved games for the school district include Smite, Rocket League and League of Legends.

In the Denali Borough School District, Tri-Valley School’s team of six players has been working on its League of Legends strategy this season.

Technology manager and teacher Kesslyn Tench said the team consists of varying grade levels, from freshmen to seniors. Over the summer, after the activity was sanctioned, students were selling old equipment, according to Tench, so the school bought computer parts, and she helped teach the kids on the team how to build their own computers.

“They can play the games on their school laptops, but I thought this was a good opportunity to learn a new skill,” she said.

It’s also provided the students with other learning opportunities. One scenario that Tench recalled was a problem they encountered in gameplay.

In League of Legends as a character takes hits from enemy players, their health drops. Once it reaches zero, that character has to go back to the beginning and basically recuperate but can go back any time to recover health faster, Tench said.  Her students kept running into a problem where they were losing because players would stay engaged in a fight without returning to base.

“So we had this discussion about this issue that we were having with the kids overextending themselves,” she said, “and so I had a discussion with them, and I showed them the character traits for the school district, and I said, ‘Which one of these would be most applicable in this situation?’”

The students chose responsibility and ownership. Tench said the players realized to stay in the game, they needed to be responsible for their team and their health.

She said she’s also amazed to observe how the team functions.

For example, one of her students knew more about the game starting out and helped teach the other students strategy.

“It’s really interesting that the difference in the way the team functions, I think, is a lot more positive because we have a player coach, because they have a lot more ownership of their strategy and what they do,” she said.

They have to commit to one game per season, as per ASAA guidelines, but Tench said some of the students are already talking about wanting to try Rocket League next season.

Contact staff writer Kyrie Long at 459-7510.  Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMlocal.