Aakash Ranavat, SVP of Operations at PlayVS, the only place where high school esports is a recognized sport with varsity letters, eligibility requirements, leagues, and state championships.
What games impacted you the most growing up and why?
I played a number of games as a kid from Madden to Super Mario Bros and World Class Track Meet on the Nintendo Power Pad to NBA Jam. All the games I enjoyed playing as a kid were team oriented and competitive social activities. It was a reason to get together with friends and play.
You’ve had a successful career having worked at both Activision and Electronic Arts, what were some of the most memorable projects that you worked on?
Launching the Destiny franchise. Destiny is the second fastest-selling new video game property in history and recognized $500 million in sales in its first day. It became the #2 best-selling video game in CY 2014 and a top 10 launch of all-time. So much blood, sweat and tears went into the development and commercialization of that game and knowing players loved it was immensely rewarding.
What is PlayVS precisely?
PlayVS is the leading amateur esports platform in the United States and Canada for High School, Youth and Collegiate competitions and leagues. It is the single community where players come together to compete, fans gather to spectate and coaches can manage their programs. PlayVS has partnerships with top game publishers to enable the platform to power high school esports league play across the nation for League of Legends, Rocket League and more. PlayVS College operates official, national leagues for titles such as Fortnite, FIFA, Madden and more.
What’s the process for starting an esports program?
The process is simple. It is identical to starting any sports team or club at the high school level. You have a champion at the schools, often a teacher, who acts as the advisor or coach of the program and gets administrators brought in while alerting students of the newest afterschool offering. Students usually can’t get enough when they find out they can combine a passion of theirs with the opportunity to compete as a varsity sport and for a state championship.
What are the different games that are currently offered and which ones are the most popular?
In high school, we currently offer League of Legends, Rocket League, Super Smash Bros: Ultimate, Splatoon 2, FIFA and Madden.
PlayVS is the only place where esports is a recognized varsity sport, what does it mean for students?
It means a lot. To students, the increased exposure that comes along with winning a state title is significant. For everyone involved in that student’s life, they get to experience the joys of watching their student lift that trophy, seeing colleges reach out and recruit them into their varsity esports programs, and so much more. At the school level, this legitimacy leads schools to really invest in their esport programs. Schools will even invest to build gaming labs with the intention of creating a competitive esports team and bringing home more championships.
How receptive are most high schools to the concept of esports partnerships and championships when first introduced to the concept?
They’re very receptive. Most schools see this as a similar offering to traditional sports and a great way to engage new students who may not be competing in other after school activities.
Do you still find time to play games yourself, and if yes what games are currently keeping you busy?
I do! I play mostly mobile games now given I have less time, but I also enjoy the quick bursts of play. I have really been enjoying Wild Rift.
Is there anything else that you would like to share about PlayVS?
If you or someone you know would like to play in our leagues head over to the PlayVS website and register for an account! Anyone looking to follow along for the ride can always hear more about the high school esports landscape and PlayVS by following along on our Twitter.
Thank you for the great interview, readers who wish to learn more should visit PlayVS.