LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - High school students competing in esports video game competitions won’t be playing the popular video game Fortnite. The Kentucky High School Athletic Association has banned the game from all esports competitions in the state.
According to a report from the Lexington Herald-Leader, KHSAA Commissioner Julian Tackett confirmed the ban in an email to school officials on Sunday, saying, “there is no place for shooter games in our schools”.
PlayVS, an esports programming platform and KHSAA’s partner through the National Federation of State High Schools, has recently started offering Fortnite as one of the games allowed for competitive play in high schools.
Tackett found out about the addition last week and was strongly opposed to the decision in his email.
“I want to personally assure you that we, along with the NFHS Network are proactively taking steps to have this decision reversed,” Tackett said. “There is no place for shooter games in our schools. This announcement was particularly troubling in that it came on the anniversary of one of Kentucky’s darkest days, the Marshall County incident.”
The Marshall County High School shooting back in January of 2018 killed two students and injured several others. The shooter, Gabriel Parker, was charged with two counts of murder and 14 counts of first-degree assault.
A KHSAA spokesperson said that games need to be properly vetted before competitions can be created.
On Tuesday, JCPS’ Digital Innovation Leader Matt Bulka agreed. He told WAVE 3 News the focus of competitive video games should be to steer kids away from violence and more towards teamwork and creativity.
“Obviously we want to avoid the games where shooting is at the heart of it," Bulka said. "We want to avoid those at all costs. So it comes down to finding the games that are team-based, that use communications and other skills in there.”
Last year, another popular video game offered by PlayVS, League of Legends, was stopped short of being prohibited. Concerns were raised by the KHSAA due to the violence depicted in the game.
League of Legends can be played in high school competitions, but requires written approval from principals, superintendents and parents before the school and students participate. Recently, Central High School and the Academy at Shawnee competed in an esports tournament featuring League of Legends.
There may another school joining that tournament soon.
On Tuesday, WAVE 3 News talked to Don Bacon, a teacher at Iroquois High School. Bacon is also trying to start an esports team at Iroquois. Bacon said he hopes to have the team established by Spring 2020, so students can take part in the upcoming League of Legends tournament. He also said the team would help give students who aren’t athletes another opportunity to join a team.
“That is my absolute favorite thing," Bacon said. "I wasn’t really an athletic kid, as tall as I am and whatever else. And so it’s great to then to provide that outlet for kids at this school.”