As one sports tournament after another gets cancelled or postponed amid the Covid-19 pandemic, high school student Nazeer Dada is busy training for one that organisers say is Covid-proof.
The country's first national Esports championship league - the National High School Esports tournament - is to take place around the middle of the year.
Delivered by local esports organisation The Shadownet and Victory Up, the competition will involve 1500 students, and 200 teams from about 100 schools across New Zealand.
Gamer Dada, 16, from Macleans College says he has been putting in at least four hours or more every Saturday and Sunday gaming in the hope of representing his school.
At the Auckland Armageddon Expo last year, Dada was the only student player to win against pro gamer Dell Tero and that has given him a good gauge of his skill level.
"I am quite serious about my gaming, I mean some of my friends play rugby or soccer but I see myself as an Esportsman," Dada said.
Esports was confirmed last year as an official sporting code by Sport New Zealand, with the New Zealand Esports Federation recognised as the governing body for esports.
Globally, esports in increasing in popularity - the first global esports that took place in 2021 both online and offline was Montoon's Mobile Legends: Bang Bang (MLBB) M2 World Championship which garnered over 136 million views.
The Shadownet spokeswoman Prony Sykes said she was expecting more than 600,000 online audience for the high school competition which spans 20 weeks - and if the Covid situation allows, the final event will have the capacity to host up to 10,000.
Players will compete in a variety of gaming titles including League of Legends, Valorant, Team Fight Tactic and Legends of Reneterra. There would also be console games NBA2K and Rocket League.
The Shadownet and Victory Up had obtained exclusive licensing rights for Riot Games at high school and university levels in NZ.
"Ever since esports was certified as sporting code, a lot of opportunities has open up for us in schools and we are proud to become the only sports league to maintain normal operations amidst the Covid-19 pandemic," Sykes said.
In the last year, the company has run the National Tertiary Esports League and other esports tournaments, which saw one team drawn to represent New Zealand in the upcoming global Fisu Esports - Fifa World Cup competition.
"Our main goal is to create a pathway and set a good foundation for Kiwi's in gaming," Sykes said.
"We believe that esports and techno sports is the future and that it is a viable career path for our many Kiwis."
By: Lincoln Tan
Lincoln Tan is the New Zealand Herald’s diversity, ethnic affairs and immigration senior reporter.