Philly kids will get an inside look into a big and growing industry - and a chance to show off their skills - after the city's Parks and Recreation department teamed up with a local esports company.
Nerd Street Gamers is adding esports programming to the Parks department's summer camps and eventually after-school sessions, the company said in a news statement Wednesday.
Before those programs kick off, Nerd Street will open a six-week NBA 2K21 tournament for 256 Philly kids ages 13 and up. Kids who join will get three free months of a Nerd Street + Digital subscription, where they can sign up for other esports tournaments or find others to game with.
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For the first planned game tournament, kids will be in teams of 2. The matches will take place from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Xbox One on Tuesdays and PlayStation 4 on Thursdays. Registration for the tournament is on Nerd Street's site and closes Feb. 15.
Most contestants will be competing at home, but there are options for kids without consoles or without internet access to play at the city's access centers, a Parks and Recreation spokesperson said.
Future tournaments are planned for Rocket League, Madden 21 and FIFA 21.
Contestants can sign up to be affiliated with their neighborhood rec center or independently. The department is inviting some young people who already participate in programs, but other young residents are also welcome.
"As esports continues to become more popular amongst different demographics, it is more important than ever to provide access to gamers of all skill levels who might not be able to afford the quality equipment necessary to succeed in the industry,” John Fazio, Nerd Street Gamers' CEO, said in a statement.
Parks and Recreation Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell said in a statement the arrangement will "level the playing field for kids and families who deserve access to positive recreational opportunities, new technology, and booming industries."
Later this year, there will be a summer camp at a Localhost, a Nerd Street esports training center. Localhosts have consoles and high-tier gaming PCs available for guests, streaming equipment, and can host events. The Localhost at 9th and Poplar streets in Philly is currently closed in the coronavirus pandemic.
Teens working as esports coaches will coach 6-12 year olds about the tech behind gaming and could prime them for a future in esports or in STEM. After that, the company could move into the after-school programming, where kids 6-12 can learn from professional coaches and meet other gamers.
Nerd Street Gamers has facilities in Philly and four other cities. And it's building a 40,000 square foot headquarters on North Broad Street that will hold the company's headquarters, broadcast and content creation studios, 20,000 square feet of esports training space, and practice centers for local and school-affiliated teams.
Beyond Nerd Street, there's a good deal of movement toward Philly becoming an esports hub in the region. The Philadelphia Fusion, which competes in the 20-team Overwatch League, is building a 3,500-seat arena near Xfinity Live! that can host esports matches and live entertainment when completed. Overwatch is a competitive shooter released in 2016 by Blizzard Entertainment, where teams composed of players' choice of 32 characters vie for dominance in different game modes.
Nerd Street Gamers has received funds from Comcast, NBC10's parent company.