Darlington e-sports preparing for digital launch

By Samantha Lyles


Like so many other organizations across the nation, Darlington County Recreation had to postpone or cancel many activities over the summer. As fall rolls in and agencies develop a better understanding of how to stage safer sporting events, local kids are taking to the field and court for flag football and volleyball, with more sports to come in the months ahead – including the debut of the new e-sports program. “We got the idea from Nathan Dawsey from Florence County Parks and Recreation. He was soliciting more groups and cities in South Carolina to get involved with e-sports. He pitched us the idea and we decided to go with it,” says Brantley Jett, Area Director for Darlington County Parks & Recreation. Jett says the appeal of e-sports, which pits teams of four or five gamers head to head in fast-paced, strategic video games, has steadily grown over the past decade. Many Division I and II colleges, including Hartsville’s Coker University, now have thriving e-sports programs that offer skilled players the chance to become student athletes and earn scholarship money. “I know that Coker has given out over $40,000 in scholarships for their e-sports players,” he says, adding that kids who participate in e-sports also learn valuable computer science skills and become versed in coding, which could help them further their educational and career goals. The Darlington County Rec program will be open to kids age 9 through high school seniors. For the trial run, enrollment will be capped at 30 kids, and those participants will be broken into groups of 10 per session. This manageable team size will allow coaches to emphasize softer skills like good communication, responsibility, and trust – all necessary attributes for successful teams. “It won’t be just traditional gaming, but more like team-building gaming,” says Jett, adding that the program will carve out time before each gaming session for players to socialize and build friendships. Jett says that if the initial run is successful, they hope to expand enrollment to 50. Given the enormous popularity of gaming nowadays, that shouldn’t be a problem. “Over in Florence, they started their (e-sports) enrollment period at midnight one night and it was sold out in 20 minutes,” Jett says. As for the equipment involved, competition gaming will be done on PCs, with consoles like Playstation and X-Box used only during free time. Jett says the Darlington County teams will compete online against other teams from South Carolina as well as gaming crews from other states and countries. Initial gaming teams will focus on two popular games, League of Legends and Valorant, and competitions will be live-streamed via dedicated channels on YouTube and Twitch. “They’ll get the chance to meet people from all over the world, and it will give our sponsors a chance to be seen all across the United States,” says Jett. While the gaming HQ is still being set up in a secured room at Darlington’s Harmon Baldwin Gym, Jett and Darlington County Parks, Recreation and Tourism director Lee Andrews are planning to hone their gaming knowledge with trips to the Florence County Parks & Rec gaming facility and a field trip to the SCAD Interactive Design and Game Development studio in Augusta. Final prep for the gaming room will be completed over the next few weeks, so keep watch for an enrollment announcement on their Facebook page: www.facebook.com/Darlington-County-Parks-Recreation-Tourism.

Author: Stephan Drew

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