Not quite a sport, but video game craze takes over lunch


BP Photo by Katia Surpin

GAMING: Juniors Alex Silberstein and Lindsay Schacht face off during a lunch time FIFA match. Alex organized the FIFA tournament.

By Eytan Kent, Staff Writer

A month-long FIFA tournament soccer craze took over the Shalhevet zeitgeist this year though no fields, balls or uniforms were involved.  It was a video game competition instead of the actual sport.

Initiated by junior Alex Silberstein, Shalhevet’s “FIFA 2016” gave students a chance to show off their video soccer skills on a virtual field played on an Xbox. It ran from Dec. 14 to Jan. 14.

Alex wanted the tournament to be competitive so he set up a buy-in of $5.

“To be honest, I started the tournament to make a quick buck,” said Alex in an interview. “I had everybody pay an entry fee and I assumed that I would make easy money, which didn’t end up happening.”

Alex did not end up winning – fellow junior Ben Harel did, taking home $160. But the tournament took on a life of its own.

In classrooms and open spaces between classes and during lunch, students could be heard cheering for each other and screaming after goals throughout the tournament.  As the month went on, more and more people got involved.

The tournament started Dec. 14, with 32 students seeded into an NCAA tournament-style bracket format, with two brackets consisting of 16 seeds in each. Every student received a random seed and then a random first-round matchup.

Then going from there, all the students had set matches.

At first, the tournament was pretty low-key because students were just playing against one another.  But soon, there were upsets, with higher-seeded players losing to those not as good at the game.

After that, the tournament received a lot more attention, and students who were not involved began to watch. Arriving in different classrooms to put their bags down, they would see the games being played and check out what was happening. Soon they would get caught up in the excitement and start following the tournament.

That seemed to surprise even Alex.

“I am very surprised that we had the type of turnout that we did,” Alex said. “Not a lot of kids in the school play FIFA, so I didn’t really understand why kids were interested in the tournament.

“But I think the competitive atmosphere really drew the kids in to the FIFA room, especially because we were getting at least 20 students every lunch in the rooms.”

Going into the tournament, Alex was the heavy favorite, but juniors Bennett Schneier and Ezra Hess and senior Jonah Gill also had good chances.  Students were considered heavy favorites if everyone knew they played a lot and were good at the Xbox game.

Ben said he won because Ezra Hess was knocked out.

“I did not expect to win at all, and I got very lucky,” said Ben in an interview. “I had a pretty easy run because one of the best players, Ezra Hess, lost in the second round.”

The tournament involved students from each grade, so everyone participating had to become friends or at least talk too whoever they were playing.
“I thought the tournament really went well socially,” said Alex. “I honestly talked to some people that I don’t know if I would have ever spoken to before, and I definitely made a couple connections and made a couple friends that I’m very happy about.”

Overall, a lot of people had a great time participating in the tournament. Students were occupied during lunch with something different from the usual activities of playing basketball or homework.

And it spawned a follow up, with a basketball video game tournament that took place over the month of February. Junior Isaac Goor won the NBA 2K16 tournament and took home $155.