Minecraft Little League Offers Kids Chance at College Sponsorship

Back in the day, parents would enlist kids in after school programs like Little League and theater. In today’s video game age, there’s a new alternative that offers a new way to work together as a team and even offers the change to win a $10,000 college scholarship. And it focuses on playing the world’s most popular game — Minecraft.

Super League Gaming kicks off nationwide Oct. 6 and 7 in 70 AMC, Regal, and Cinemark movie theaters across 34 cities ranging from Anchorage to Atlanta. The six-week program costs $80 and lets teams of four to seven kids play Minecraft on laptops in a competition that unfolds on the big screen, as well as on national leaderboards.

Mojang’s Minecraft game has over 100 million registered users worldwide and videos of users’ virtual brick creations are the most popular gaming category on YouTube. That’s one of the reasons Microsoft forked over $2.5 billion for the Swedish developer last year.

Santa Monica, CA-based startup Super League Gaming is capitalizing on that success with its first foray into video game leagues. The company did a limited test run this summer and had over 10,000 players spend time at the multiplex gaming instead of watching overpriced Hollywood sequels.

Image Credit: Instagram.com/joinsuperleague

“One of the most interesting ‘a-ha’ moments this summer was watching families come to the theater to game,” Super League Gaming president and COO Brett Morris said. “Sometimes all of them played together and other times a parent would cheer on their kid, giving them tips. We had siblings, grandparents, and even friends who wanted to hang out and watch the gameplay. We knew gamers would come running into our theaters but when the spectators stayed too, it really made us see this as a great family activity.”

Morris said this concept was born of his company’s “group of dads’” own memories of playing video games with friends back when arcades existed as a social real-world hangout. Console, PC, and mobile online games have not only made the arcade obsolete, but they’ve also replaced actual interactions with voice chat and texting. Now the movie theater has become a modern day arcade — and Minecraft has become the tool to build teamwork and encourage competition.

“Our primary goal was to make gaming more social,” Morris said. “Letting kids create their own teams, and then compete on those teams not only locally but nationally as well, allowed us to take that social environment to an even larger scale. We want to inspire kids who are normally strangers to work collaboratively and creatively—together as a team. By the end of the gameplay, they’ve made new friends. Not online or as an avatar, but in person.”

There’s also scholarship money involved, as well as a Super Bolt trophy. Each week teams are given 45 minutes to build and 45 minutes to battle and each of those phases receives a score that goes on the national leaderboard. At the end of the six weeks, the top ranking nationwide player will receive a $5,000 college scholarship and the top ranking team will receive a $10,000 college scholarship.

Morris said all of this was made possible because Mojang created an open source API, which basically gave the world license to create any Minecraft world that’s imaginable.

“Mojang are gaming heroes because their open source strategy allowed people from all walks of life to have access to their coding, which is why we chose to license Minecraft first,” Morris said. “Now we’re in talks with other gaming publishers to do the same with their big and upcoming titles.”

Super League Gaming is gaining traction with 8 -14 year-olds with this new Little League for gamers, but Morris said the summer preview also attracted college gamers and 20-something gamers who were just curious to see what it was like to play in a theater gaming arena.

Anyone who doesn’t make the deadline for the first Fall League can jump into the next one. Super League Gaming will start a new six-week league at the conclusion of the first one and keep things going as long as kids keep signing up.

That’s good news for both parents looking to get their gamer-kids out socializing, and for kids who think they have what it takes to become a Minecraft National Champion and take home some scholarship cash.