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How a high school video game tournament is a step toward a career in tech

Three Silver Cup Elite Gaming trophies for third, second and first place at esports competition.
Elite Gaming
High school esports athletes were able to compete for these third, second, and first place trophies in the first ever Elite Cup Series 2v2 Rocket League Tournament

Twelve students took center stage this weekend at the Syracuse Oncenter for their first on-stage local esports competition. Students from three local schools competed at RetroGameCon, a gaming convention, and played the popular game Rocket League. The audience watched onscreen as the students controlled rocket-powered cars that can jump and flip in a game of virtual soccer.

Baldwinsville player AJ said the competition was stressful.

“I was definitely nervous in the finals of the first game," the high school student said.

But he and his partner walked away with first place, beating out teams from West Genesee and Phoenix high schools.

The tournament comes from Elite Gaming, a nonprofit located inside the Museum of Science and Technology in Syracuse. Co-founder Matt Guernsey said students can benefit from playing video games because it grows the skills local employers are seeking.

“There’s a need for high tech jobs in the area ,and it serves an underserved portion of the student body at all the middle and high schools—not everybody is 6 foot, 250 and can play football and do all that stuff," he said.

The tournament at RetroGameCon drew three local schools, but Guernsey said Elite Gaming is connecting with dozens of other schools.

“We're going to be exploring all sorts of curriculum and CTE classes with them, beginning in 2023," Guernsey said.

Elite Gaming is looking to expand in even further. Guernsey said their next project is developing a 12,000 square foot gaming arena inside the Museum of Science and Technology’s old planetarium.

“We realized that Syracuse is kind of starving for high tech and things for kids to do that aren't traditional school sports and stuff," Guernsey said.

The arena will feature 120 state-of-the-art gaming PCs and a console lounge stocked with current Xbox, PlayStation and Nintendo consoles.

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.