KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It started as a "passion project." A way for Mason Mullenioux and his friends to give back to high school students who liked to game, like they did.
But their idea quickly exploded.
Now, the Kansas City men are helping high school athletes chase championships through video game screens.
Their company is called High School Esports League. Based in the River Market, they bring esports to high schools across the country and connect teams to one another through organized gaming.
"What we are doing is giving the schools the ability to take that and use it to transform their students lives in a positive way. To get them more interested in school, raise their GPAs, provide scholarship opportunities, which is becoming more and more prevelant now," said Mullenioux.
It's one of the oldest and largest esport leagues in the country.
"Our first season we had 20 schools and that was huge for us, but now we're up to 1,400 schools," said Mullenioux.
Sophomore Kyle Champlin is a member of Bay Shore High School's esports team in New York. His brother started the high school team with the help of his father, Chris. He also received a scholarship, which Kyle would like to get too.
"I am hoping that this will help get me into a better school by having something else I can do," said Champlin.
Esport players are typically identified on leader boards through user names.
Scholarships are becoming more prevalent. According to Mullenioux, state associations are showing interest in establishing state titles too.
"I think all of our parents were telling us, 'you need to get out of the basement, you need to stop playing games.' But now they're saying something different," he said laughing.