Esports league starting second season in Southington

SOUTHINGTON — A local gaming league aims to prepare local youth for a future where technology will play an ever growing role, while also giving them a safe environment.

Launched in August, XP-CT currently offers four competitive games for elementary and middle school students and will be adding more educationally geared clubs for Minecraft and Roblox starting this weekend. The league was started by Brendan McGourn, owner of FAST Summer Camp based out of Mount Southington, and Tyler Nichols, a pre-school teacher who works with McGourn at the summer camp.

“Me and Ty have both been casual gamers our whole lives and we’re both in child care,” McGourn said. “We saw a need to bring structured gaming to kids. You know, kids are alone playing in basements, you don’t know who they’re playing with. There’s a lot of toxic culture online — abusive chat, things like that — so we wanted to come in and offer a safe place for kids to game.”

They converted a classroom on the former Branford Hall Career Institute campus at 51 N. Main St. into a gaming center with around a dozen computers where children can play together in person. McGourn, Nichols and coaches they’ve hired give real time feedback.

XP-CT is part of the North American Esports League, which has around 30 similar gaming centers scattered around the United States and Canada. Children compete in age brackets and can win scholarships to the over 250 colleges with Esports teams.

Since the Southington teams are the newest entrants to the league, they’re behind many of the established teams. Despite that, Ryan Barron, one of the Overwatch players, said they’ve been learning fast.

“Knowing that we’ve already gotten so much better as a team and individually is nice, because we know we can keep improving,” the 12-year-old said. “We’re losing a lot, but we’re seeing an improvement in us working as a team.”

Building teamwork is one of the central skills the league aims to provide. As Barron and five other kids played Overwatch on Wednesday, their coach — the captain of the University of Hartford’s Overwatch Esports team — was watching and helping them work together.

For those uninterested or unable to play traditional physical sports, Nichols said organized Esports can provide many of the same social skills as other sports.

“You’re getting the teamwork, cooperation, communication, leadership,” he said. “Anything you’re going to get from a traditional sport, you’re going to get from participating in organized Esports.”

The competitive games XP-CT offers — Overwatch, Valorant, Fortnight and Rocket League — will be starting their second season on Feb. 2.

The Minecraft and Roblox clubs will meet every Sunday starting this weekend. Rather than competing against other teams, children in those clubs will be playing under the guidance of Adam Pelletier, a Quinnipiac University professor. He will be using the games as a platform for learning science, technology, engineering, and mathematics skills.

“That’s one of those games where kids can really start getting educational aspects out of it: architecture, working cooperatively, game design,” McGourn said of Minecraft.

They’re also developing curriculum for the skills needed for emerging jobs in the broadcasting of Esports.

“We really see that every avenue for a career, for a job, for a business that exists in regular sports is going to start being offered in Esports,” Nichols said. “There will be shoutcasters that are commentating Call of Duty matches online that are getting paid. There will be video production in Esports ... There’s going to be marketing jobs in Esports.”

Those interested in signing up for a team or club can visit or call 860-548-4880. The Minecraft and Roblox clubs cost $199 for an 8-week season and the competitive teams are $349 for each 10-week season.

The league also runs open assessment nights on Wednesdays where kids can try out the games they offer.

dleithyessian@record-journal.com203-317-2317Twitter: @leith_yessian

"Knowing that we've already gotten so much better as a team and individually is nice, because we know we can keep improving."

-Ryan Barron
With local school, politics and coronavirus news being more important now than ever, please help our newsroom deliver the coverage you deserve. Please support Local news.

More From This Section