WITH THE RAPID growth of esports in the country, especially among the young, the country’s biggest basketball league saw an opportunity for the two to go hand-in-hand.
In fact, this was one plan that the league had hatched way back in Season 46. “Magpapalaro dapat ako ng esports in between games. Para yung mga bata, makakasama natin,” said Commissioner Willie Marcial to Spin.ph at the sidelines of a press conference announcing a new esports grassroots tournament called the Kings League.
“Pero nag-pandemya,” he went on.
With live games back in full swing, Marcial hopes to revisit those plans. “Ngayon, inimbitahan nila ako [rito],” he said, referring to Dark League Studios, the organizer of the Kings League. “Baka ma-invite ko sila one of these games, o kaya buong conference, by next season.
“Pareho yung programa namin [ng Dark League Studios], lalo na sa mental health [ng athletes]. Yun ang pinaka-importante.”
PBA execs support Dark League Studios
Mental health and responsible gaming are among the primary pillars of the organization’s push into grassroots level esports, said Dark League Studio’s AC Valdenor.
“We have to educate each and every player about it,” he explained.
This includes not just a focus on mental health and the effects of too much gaming time, but also little-discussed topics in esports, like player nutrition.
It’s a unique advocacy for an ambitious esports startup that will kick off a nationwide amateur tournament later this year. Next year, they even plan to launch a women’s-only series, aptly called the Queens League.
Supporting the launch was Marcial, as well as Terrafirma Dyip team governor Bobby Rosales and SMB team governor Alfrancis Chua.
Their sons are heavily into esports, confessed the two PBA executives, and are among the movers behind Dark League Studios.
"Ever since I was young, ang hilig ko talaga is games," said Marc, son of Alfrancis. "I always go to internet cafes. [My dad] was very, very supportive ever since. Dati, binibigyan pa niya ako ng P50, kasi three hours na yun sa internet cafe."
He added: "Nakikita niya yung value, na esports is growing this big, that it has a following worldwide."
For dad Alfrancis, it's all about giving back to his son.
“First of all, sila sumusuporta sa amin sa basketball,” said the elder Chua.
“Ngayon, sila naman ang nag-introduce sa amin nang ganito, kailangan namin silang suportahan. Syempre, they invited us to come here, to listen. Ngayon, mas nilinawagan ako [tungkol sa esports].”
Meanwhile, Bobby Rosales told Spin.ph: “Esports is here to stay. Let’s all make sure that the organization will function properly, and that all the stakeholders will contribute positively to the growth of esports.”