The first ever season of esports within the AHSAA is set to begin in February according to a release from PlayVS, the company slated to run things for the NFHS and it’s member associations. You can check out all of the info on JoxPreps here as I dove into the press release and shared what information I could pull from it.

However, there are still plenty of questions when it comes to the new esports format within the AHSAA. There is already a “Season 0” underway in a few states this fall with League of Legends as the only game. The AHSAA did not participate in this initial test season. This new season in the spring adds Rocket League and SMITE to the league, making it where there are two MOBA’s and one sports game.

There are still plenty of questions before February gets here. Among those include potential future games, broadcast rights, participating schools/teams, media availability and more.

Potential Games

Now that we know League of Legends, SMITE and Rocket League are in, here are some games that I think could be really good in this league. If I had to guess actual games that will be announced, then I would guess that NBA 2K would be the strongest possibility followed by a lighter fighting game of some sort.

Any Shooter

PlayVS and the NFHS have basically shut the door on any shooter being added due to them being too violent and involving guns. That knocks out a large collection of games including:

– Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
– Overwatch
– Rainbow Six series
– Call of Duty series
– Halo series
– Gears of War series
– Destiny 2

Perhaps most importantly, this knocks out use of any battle royale game, including Fortnite. There are plenty of ways that they could capitalize on the Fortnite/PUBG craze but not if they refuse to allow shooters.

Pros: Easy to watch/follow, good teamplay
Cons: Violent

EA Sports

Any EA Sports game would be a great fit, but would EA ever work with this league to get their games involved? That is the big question. FIFA, Madden, NHL and NBA Live would all be good choices and are games that everyone plays regularly already.

Pros: Easy to watch/follow, allows for a single person to excel in a 1v1 game
Cons: Developer/publisher issues


This is the most likely sports game that we will see. With an actual pro league run by the NBA itself, there is a great path to work their way from high school to the pros. The question is – will the NBA support a high school league and will 2K? They are more likely than EA is.

NBA 2K could also be played multiple different ways to allow it to be more versatile. It can be 1v1 where one player controls a whole team. It can be 3v3 in their street ball mode or 5v5 like how the NBA 2K League is.

Pros: Easy to watch/follow, allows for a multitude of gameplay styles, direct tie-in to professional system
Cons: None really

Collectible Card Games

This is a great potential genre to add in, with the most notable game being Hearthstone. Once again, you run into a developer/publisher that may not jump into a high school league with Activision Blizzard. If they didn’t play ball, then there are plenty of other options such as Gwent (from The Witcher universe), Artifact (from the Dota universe), Elder Scrolls: Legends (from the Elder Scrolls universe) or maybe even a digital version of a game like Magic the Gathering that is already super popular.

Pros: Allows for a single person to excel in a 1v1 game, can also be played in teams
Cons: Hard to follow for average fan, can be very slow, steep learning curve

Starcraft 2

You’ll run into a similar Blizzard problem potentially, plus this game is hard to follow for people who aren’t really into it. It can be complicated to watch and the simple games will be not only easier to watch, but easier to get more people involved in.

Pros: Very advanced gameplay, allows for a single person to excel in a very popular 1v1 game
Cons: Hard to follow because of the advanced gameplay, very fast to follow, can be hard to get your foot in the door, steep learning curve

Fighting Games

This depends more on what fighting game you are using. Some can be overly violent, others are very cartoony and don’t come off as violent. Street Fighter is the happy medium style of game where it’s more of a real brawler but doesn’t get bloody like a game such as Mortal Kombat. On the other end, Super Smash Bros. would be a perfect game, but would there be a fight with Nintendo to utilize it?

Pros: Easy to play/hard to master, allows for a single person to excel in a 1v1 game, can also be played in teams
Cons: Some can be very violent

Clash Royale

Mobile games are something that should be looked into as well. Everyone has a smart phone of some sort so the barrier to entry is the lowest with mobile games. Arguably the leader in mobile games is Clash Royale. The problem is that there is a large pay-to-win philosophy behind it, but if there was a way to unlock everything when playing for your school, that would make it a great choice.

Pros: Easy to play/hard to master, allows for a single person to excel in a 1v1 game, can also be played in teams
Cons: Locked behind a pay-to-win scheme to learn the game, isn’t set up great for smaller competition

Other questions

What schools/teams are involved?

I’ve reached out to various schools in person and on social media to try and find out who all is participating but haven’t heard much. I’ve gathered a few schools that have at least expressed interest, but now that we know the games for the initial season, how many teams will we actually see? The release also said there would be multiple “conferences”, so I don’t know if the current classifications will go away or not. Not every sport is split into seven different classifications, many sports combine the lower classifications and some (such as bowling) have all schools competing together regardless of classification.

The deadline to sign teams up isn’t until February 8, so there is still time to decide for schools.

Where is the AHSAA?

There hasn’t been a word from the actual AHSAA yet about anything, at least not that I’ve seen as a member of the media. The release I was given this week came directly from PlayVS after I reached out to them multiple times throughout the summer and fall. The AHSAA hasn’t said much since the initial announcement last spring and their website still has the same PDF file on how to participate under the “esports” section of the website that it has had since then as well.

There was a lot of blowback when it was initially announced, many people taking the route of “great, they are encouraging more video games instead of physical activity” or “video games aren’t sports”. The AHSAA could do a lot to help promote esports within a healthy environment before stuff like that gets out of hand. As someone who won multiple state championships in high school football and played college football, while also competing professionally in video games for many years – I’m glad this is something the AHSAA has added. The old mindset of “video games are the source of all the world’s problems” needs to go away, but the more this festers without the AHSAA promoting a friendly environment, the worse it will get.

Esports is here as an alternative for people who would never be able to wear their school’s jersey on the football field, basketball court, or any other traditional sport. The “no-cut” rule is something that people aren’t understanding. The teams won’t cut anyone, but there will be A-teams, B-teams, etc. And to that point, I played football on a team that went 40-4 with two region titles and two state titles and the team didn’t cut a single player. So hopefully that ends that discussion.

The best gamers are those that are sharp mentally and sharp physically. Those that don’t understand will always fight what they don’t understand. I hope we hear more from the AHSAA and that they really put a lot of great work into this if they are going to do it so that it’s done the right way.

How can the public follow along?

I still haven’t heard many details of how people can follow along with the seasons. There is currently a season going on (just not with the AHSAA) but there is no news anywhere about what is happening. As a member of the media, I’ve reached out multiple times but haven’t heard much back on how I can access scores, standings, rosters and more to share through JoxPreps. For football (and pretty much every other sport), information is everywhere – both in an official and unofficial capacity. PlayVS says everything will run through their site, but as an outsider who isn’t actively participating through a high school, there isn’t any way for me to access anything beyond their homepage.

If I can’t access anything as a member of the media, what is the average parent or fan going to do?

Along with that, are there any broadcasting agreements in place? Since it’s an official “sport” within the AHSAA and NFHS, I would assume that a school could stream through the NFHS Network if they wanted to. I also assume they could stream through Twitch/YouTube/Facebook as well, but once again, nothing has been officially said.

The release earlier this week also talked about offline state championships. All of the championship venues are listed on the AHSAA website at the beginning of the school year but nothing is listed yet for esports this spring.

There are still a couple of months until things get underway and deadlines are met, so we could learn more between now and then. Still, it’s been a while since things were first announced and nothing much else has been said.

As I find out more or we find out more on JoxPreps, we’ll make sure to let everyone know.