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High school students to battle in video game tournament at RetroGameCon

A electric sign at the Oncenter conference center promotes Retro Game Con event and where to buy tickets.
Retro Game Con
Oncenter advertises Retro Game Con event outside the conference center.

Electronic sports, or esports, is growing in popularity – especially following the pandemic. More players are competing in organized video game tournaments, and local schools are joining in.

The Phoenix Central School District’s esports students will compete in a high school tournament at a gaming conference in Syracuse this weekend. They’ll take on other schools in the video game Rocket League, which combines soccer and a demolition derby.

Phoenix School District technical director Mike Foley said the game forces players to collaborate like any other team of student athletes.   

“The team has developed strategies and work on certain plays in Rocket League," Foley said.

The director recalled the similarities to his own experience as a student athlete.

"It’s the same thing I was doing in other sports that they’re doing in esports," Foley said.

RetroGameCon, a two-day gaming convention, is hosting the tournament. The Con is back in Syracuse for the first time since the pandemic. Co-founder Nathan Grant said the event is a celebration of all types of games — from throwback titles to the latest competitive esports.  

“With each year, we’re looking at what kind of things we can do to expand, and the tournaments were a huge part of it," Grant said.

Grant said the event has grown to include pinball machines and arcade games.

The volunteer-run convention begins Saturday morning at the Oncenter in downtown Syracuse. The high school Rocket League tournament starts at 1 p.m.

Matt Salerno is an undergraduate studying Broadcast and Digital Journalism at Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, expected to graduate in May 2025. As a contributor, he helps produce content for WAER. In his free time, Matt plays and listens to jazz and bebop music and climbs at the Barnes Center's rock climbing gym.