Washington Evening Journal
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FAIRFIELD — Fairfield High School will host an awards ceremony this weekend honoring the best video game players and teams from across the country.
The event is known as the Walter Day National High School Esports Award Ceremony, named after Fairfield’s own Walter Day. It will be held at 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 19 in the FHS Auditorium, and feature the presentation of 58 awards and card packs to esports teams, coaches and individuals from four states. The event is sponsored by the International Video Game Hall of Fame and Gravity Gaming by ByteSpeed.
John Grunwald, director of the FHS esports team, said this awards ceremony is the first of its kind in honoring teams of video game players, a field known as “esports,” from multiple states. The event will honor 20 esports teams from across Iowa, plus state champions from four states: Iowa, Wisconsin, Oklahoma and Washington. Grunwald said the teams from out of state might not make the trip to receive their award, but they will be able to participate over Zoom, and the public can watch a livestream of the event on YouTube at https://youtu.be/Y6X4ZZaO5M0.
Some of the schools in eastern Iowa that have been invited to attend include teams from New London, Williamsburg and Linn-Mar.
The schools receiving awards also will receive custom-made cards courtesy of Walter Day, featuring their school’s mascot and information about the team. Day has custom-made cards for 10 players on Fairfield’s team and three coaches. Each card includes a picture of the person on one side, and their biography on the back.
“All of the kids wrote their own biography,” Grunwald said. “This is their unique card.”
Grunwald said he and the FHS esports team took the initiative to organize this ceremony because they wanted to give validity to esports as a school activity.
“We’re not just about playing games,” he said. “We want to spread the word about esports and the benefits the students get, like how they can get scholarships to college in this. Just like we have state tournaments in football, basketball and volleyball, we have a state esports tournament. This is our way of showing off what the kids can do, and giving them a pat on the back.”
Some of the video games the esports teams compete in include Mario Kart, Rocket League, Super Smash Bros. and League of Legends.
Day said he was honored that the FHS esports team has named this ceremony after him.
“This is very bold, to host high schools from out of state to receive awards, and to do it every year,” Day said. “They are making Fairfield the crossroads of esports, and I feel honored that they put my name on the event.”
Day is a living legend in the video game world, most famous for running the arcade Twin Galaxies in Ottumwa, which kept track of and verified who held the high score for various video games.
Day said he held ceremonies similar to this at Twin Galaxies, where he crowned champions on an annual basis. However, he said what FHS is doing is a “new animal.” He described Grunwald as a “man of tremendous vision.”
“They are attempting to inspire high schools across the nation to bond together and create an organization that honors success,” he said. “I take my hat off to Fairfield High School, because they’re doing something no other high school in America was bold enough to attempt.”
Call Andy Hallman at 641-575-0135 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org