E-sports Lounge could give Tesoro High gamers bragging rights

By Greg Mellen

There were no minions or creeps to blast, but the 50 or so attendees at the ribbon cutting for a new E-sports Lounge at Tesoro High might say it was a GG (good game).

In a former classroom decked out in Tesoro colors, 30 gleaming new high-end gaming computers, complete with keyboards, mice, headsets, and gaming chairs, awaited. The walls were decorated in flat screens on which live-action games such as Fortnite, Rocket League and Minecraft could be viewed. There was even a “shoutcast” booth from which future tournaments will be announced.

Maybe most impressive, the room has a Tricaster Broadcast system that links to all 30 computers and their webcams to allow live coverage of tournaments and competitions.

“We’ll be able operate like a professional broadcast studio,” said Neil Bui, the instructor for Tesoro High’s new E-sports Program, sponsored by College and Career Advantage (CCA).  CCA is the Regional Occupation Program (ROP) that serves Capistrano and Laguna Beach school districts.

Executive Director of College and Career Advantage, Dr. Paul Weir, welcomes everyone to the opening of Tesoro High School’s new E-Sports Room.
Photo by Steven Georges/CUSD Insider

Before parents roll their eyes at the notion of their kids doing more video gaming, this is about more than just fun and games. The after-bell class, which is open to students from across the district and Laguna Beach Unified School District, carries elective credit and is a University of California A-G approved class.

And while at the end of each class there is often time for “free play” and socializing, the bulk of the course is geared toward real-world and business applications of e-sports and events, from planning to logistics to marketing to production. Bui will also lecture on the latest news in gaming and other industry topics.

“The goal is really to have a crash course on the e-sports world,” said Bui, who is also an assistant athletic director and E-sports Coach at Westcliff University in Irvine.

“They need to take this class seriously. It’s no joke,” Bui said.

Tesoro High School’s new E-Sports Room, Game Zone.
Photo by Steven Georges/CUSD Insider

Bui’s hope is that students will emerge able to talk intelligently about all aspects of gaming, particularly with regards to business and promotion.

Dr. Paul Weir, Executive Director of College and Career Advantage, said he had been trying to launch an e-sports project for several years, since his days as an Assistant Principal at Tesoro.

“I knew this would be a great thing for the kids and for us to meet them where they all are,” he said.

Tesoro Principal Ken Ezratty agreed, saying it is important to locate “the foundations of what kids are into. This is one, and I can’t think of a better one.”

Students attend Tesoro High School’s new E-Sports Room opening. School Board Member Lisa Davis is at right.
Photo by Steven Georges/CUSD Insider

Although e-sports is not new and many high schools have e-sports clubs, teams, and compete in tournaments, Tesoro’s high-end lounge is unique in the Capistrano Unified School District.

To Katherine Amoukhteh, a STEM Mentor with CAA, the space also provides a safe and positive place in which the kids can play. Part of the fun of online gaming can come from the interaction with other players. While some good-natured trash talking and ribbing can be fun, occasionally it can spill over into cyberbullying and other adverse interactions.

In the school setting, however, that can be better controlled and kept positive.

“There is less toxicity with the teacher there,” Amoukhteh said.

Tesoro High students gather around one of the new computers at Tesoro High School’s new E-Sports Room as School Board Members Lisa Davis, left, and Judy Bullockus watch.
Photo by Steven Georges/CUSD Insider

CTE classes help students prepare for a variety of careers. These include many that may not require a four-year college degree, but some specialized training or education.

To address future employment opportunities and avenues, California Department of Education divides CTE into 15 industry sectors, ranging from agriculture to technology-based careers.

Burgeoning industry

Globally, the video gaming industry is worth hundreds of billions, with e-sports valued at more than $1 billion and growing. According to the Pew Research Center, among teens, about 90 percent, including 97 percent of boys, say they play video games on a computer, game console, or cell phone, according to a survey of people ages 13 to 17.

According to e-sports audience estimates, “There are more than 540 million esports viewers globally as of 2023, and it is predicted that this number will reach 640.8 million in 2025.”

“You may not be a pro gamer, but there is an entire world around it, so you’ll leave with a lot of doors open,” Superintendent Dr. Christopher Brown said of students enrolled in the class.

School Board Member Gila Jones says a few words about Tesoro High School’s new E-Sports Room.
Photo by Steven Georges/CUSD Insider

The shelf life of e-sport athletes is brief, the demands are intense, and the pay is small for all but the elite. According to esportslane, “It is estimated that eSports players usually go professional between ages 16 and 18, and retire between ages 22 and 24.”

Outside of the limelight, however, opportunity abounds. Indeed.com, a career advice site, lists 15 non-gamer jobs in and around the e-sports industry ranging from graphic and network engineers averaging about $100,000 in salary to event managers, public relations specialists, and graphic artists.

Presenting events is likely to become even bigger business as the popularity of esports grows. In 2022, the League of Legends World Championships was played in arenas in four cities in Mexico and the U.S., drew 5.1 million peak viewers, and had a purse of more than $2.2 million, with the winning team taking a $498,000 prize.

Big project

Brown said of the Tesoro Lounge that “rooms like this don’t spring out of nowhere,” but the decision to expend the money and resources would be worthwhile.

He said he is proud to see a program that will help students “get ready for an adult world that they’ll actually go into.”

The Tesoro project ribbon-cutting is the third by the CCA since the semester started and its most ambitious. This event also was the best attended.

“This is the manifestation of a lot of effort,” Weir said.

Tesoro High’s Principal Ken Ezratty talks about the school’s new E-Sports Room (Game Zone).
Photo by Steven Georges/CUSD Insider

Students have been impressed with the upper-niche Lenovo gaming computers, with clear siding through which the newest gaming cards and software were visible.

Mae Den Sison, a senior at Tesoro High, was excited to tell her younger brother, Denver, to check out the new lounge.

“I hope he does, because he loves gaming,” she said.

Bui said the plan is to stage tournaments at the school, complete with marketing, advertising and professional-level production values.

Ezratty envisions the Tesoro E-sports Lounge becoming the envy of gamers throughout Southern California.

“You can bet that my kids that are gamers are going to brag about it,” he said.

Tesoro High School’s new E-Sports Room, Game Zone.
Photo by Steven Georges/CUSD Insider

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