Students from across the region show off their skills during second annual Fenworks Esports state tournament
Lane Oian, president of Fenworks, said the tournament brings students who share a passion for esports together
GRAND FORKS — The second annual Fenworks Esports state tournament brought out about 130 students from schools in North Dakota and Minnesota to the Alerus Center on March 31 and April 1.
Lane Oian, president of Fenworks, said the tournament brings students who share a passion for esports together.
“You see it with traditional sports with basketball and football and there’s school rivalries, but the same holds true with esports,” Oian said. “The students get the chance to see their friends from other schools. They compete with them and then they come together and they see each other. We’ve had people that make lifelong friendships when they get to play together online.”
Wesley Partlow, along with his teammates on the Jamestown Supersonic Blue Jays from Jamestown High School, competed in Rocket League at the tournament. Partlow said the tournament was not only a great experience, but it was also a chance to meet other students.
“It’s very cool (because) stuff like this doesn’t always happen all that much,” he said.
Leading up to the state tournament, Fenworks runs an eight week esports season for students in sixth grads and up to compete for a spot at the tournament. During the two-day tournament students competed in Valorant, Fortnite, League of Legends, Rocket League and chess. Winners of each game title were announced and received a trophy during the closing ceremony on Saturday.
Oian said she has seen the popularity of esports continue to rise over the years as it creates an inclusive environment for anyone to participate in.
“It doesn’t matter the age or anything," she said. "They can compete against each other and their abilities directly correlate a lot of times to computer technology, computer engineering or anything in that realm like computer sciences. And they have that ability to have tech understanding. It’s just really cool to see them come and show off their skills.”
Fenworks CEO Kaleb Dschaak said educators in the community reached out around two years ago to get esports programs available in schools.
“I was working with UND, I helped construct their (esports) facility, and that’s sort of how they got in touch,” Dschaak said. “From there we started launching these programs and getting schools involved in esports and its made a huge difference.”
The number of sponsors for the tournament this year has also increased, according to Oian, with several of those being colleges including UND, North Dakota State University, Dickinson State University Esports, Lake Region State College, Northland Community and Technical College and the University of Jamestown.
Not only does Oian see a lot of participation in esports from students, but she has also seen a lot of interest from the community with the number of spectators, both school administrators and parents, that come to watch the students compete after they’ve worked their way up to the state tournament.
“The students that maybe never before strived for that eligibility, now they do because it gives them something to (be) really motivated by,” Oian said. “We get the (school) admin support on that of course, and then the guardian support because they get to see their student shine and get in the spotlight.”