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Darlene Pineda Describes How She Discovered The Joy Of Esports

As esports develops in New Mexico, Darlene intends to grow right along with it.

Thom Fain
Mar 03, 2021

Whenever New Mexico – the Land of Enchantment – decided to sign off on esports for its high schools in 2019, they added the Rift to the Southwestern state’s world of wonders. That prompted dozens of schools to sign up for League of Legends competition alongside other esports titles, and when Darlene Pineda of Portales High School caught wind of it, she was overjoyed.

“When I heard that our school was going to have a new program, it was something I looked forward to – esports is something that I have a passion for.”

Through Samira, her favorite champion, Pineda has experienced firsthand what it’s like to build a network of friends and collaborate for the team’s objective in ways that only esports can offer. Admittedly not a sports person at all, the so-called Field of Justice in LoL proved to be somewhere she could learn what it’s like to thrive in competition alongside her friends.

“I had barely joined any extracurriculars during my sophomore year when esports came along,” she recounted to PlayVS. “I had gotten two of my friends to join me, and the rest of our team I then got to meet and get to know better. It was awesome because everyone was so kind to each other!” 

Although her team met its fair share of challenges, Pineda and her teammates put their good chemistry to use whenever Portales coach J.D. Mead led the program through its foundational phase. Now it’s a permanent part of the school’s extracurriculars, and an important part of the school with remote learning becoming more common. He wasn’t so sure they would make it to a second year, since the small town’s administration had taken a ‘wait and see’ approach.

After just one year, they’re big believers.

"There are some kids that they don't excel at sports, they're not really artistic or anything like that, so this gives them an outlet and this is something they're already doing when they get home," Pineda’s coach told the Eastern New Mexico News. "This is really going to give them something to be excited about to move forward and it's going to build discipline, self esteem, being a team leader and a team player."

The program was such a resounding success that coaches at some of the bigger programs in the state envision sold-out auditoriums with giant columns of video screens at some point in the near future.

For Pineda, the sound of that is encouraging enough to put in the extra time for her team to become skilled communicators and top-ranking in the region.

“Our coach would let us at the lab a few minutes before the official match,” she said. “During this time we would make a custom game with bots to practice and warm up, and make sure we’d leave it all on the field.”

As for whether the junior felt the time spent learning skilled maneuvers in esports was worth it, may there be no question about it.

“My family was definitely supportive of me joining the team, because they knew I wasn’t going to let my education falter,” she said. “Esports has made me feel like I’m part of something important and shows that video games aren’t a waste of time.”

And with the prospects of college scholarships on the line, the junior insists on becoming better as Portales High begins planning for the Spring season in PlayVS.

For more information on the 2021 PlayVS Spring season, check out the benefits our high schools receive.