At the start of the 2020-2021 school year we started the inaguaral season for our high school esports team. As part of the IAHSEA league, the fall season consisted of Smash Ultimate for the Nintendo Switch and the winter season consisted of Overwatch. While getting students to join the team and compete against other schools is a big part of high school esports, there is another large component that consists of livestreaming the games.
Esports offers multiple career paths and the production of livestreams has a lot of learning potential, not just for the players. While players can learn to get better at the games they play, they can learn a lot about working as a team, growing from failure, and of course resiliency. Esports also offers opportunities for students who may not have had these opportunities to learn in the past. Not everyone is going to end up making millions livestreaming their video game play, but that is also true for all sports in a school setting. There are so many positives that can come out of an esports program that it is something I can’t wait to see how it grows.
Smash Ultimate on the Nintendo Switch
- Nintendo Switch
- 3 HDMI cables
- HDMI splitter (similar to this model found on Amazon)
- Video convert to connect to computer (we used an AJA IO system, newest version can be found here.)
- Gaming headsets with microphones
- Gaming laptop (we used one from Bytespeed similar to this model)
- Streaming Software (we used Vmix)
- Elgato Streamdeck
Livestreaming games from the Nintendo Switch can be a little complex as the device itself is not powerful enough to play the games and live stream or record. You need to use a setup like a HDMI splitter to have the video signal going to both a tv for the player to view and then to a computer for your live stream setup. There is always a chance with a splitter to introduce some lag between the actions on the game system and what you see on the tv so this is something to be mindful of. We did not see any noticeable lag with our splitter.
The setup had an HDMI cable running from the Nintendo Switch to the splitter, one HDMI cable going from the splitter to the TV and the other HDMI cable going into the AJA video box. (I had tested out an Elgato 4K cam stick I had at home, along with a cheap version that was $20, and they both performed similar to the AJA box). The AJA video box converted the HDMI video signal so it could connect to the computer using a Thunderbolt cable. Once connected to the computer, we used the Vmix software to combine the video feed with the audio from our announcers.
The Vmix software works similar to OBS but had some nice features like the interactive scoreboard, which we used in conjunction with the Streamdeck to change the score quickly. We also were able to do simple things like have various image overlays, such as player names and other important information. I used Canva to create the short video clips that we added in for player introductions as well as our loading images.
We added some images of our sponsors to play throughout the livestream in the corner. Overall the graphics worked well and were simple enough that the students had no issues once they remembered they had to update the score throughout the matches.
Some improvements we need to do before our next season involving a Nintendo Switch game is to work on our cord management as we had everything on a cart but with so many cables, it became too easy to disconnect something. The other thing I would like to look at is if we can move the announcers farther away from the player so the player is not hearing all that they are saying. Otherwise our livestreams worked well for our first season but we need to make sure to recruit more people for future seasons and transfer some of the image creation and pre-production to students instead of my doing it as well as coaching.
The announcers are a pivotal role and we were lucky to have students who were willing to share their knowledge with others and support our teams by doing the play by play. This is an area of growth for our program as it would be great to have a whole crew of students who prep the graphics and run the livestream while also doing the announcing.
You can catch our past livestreams on our YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC4c5Rk-uKPJtRfjBLl2z7JA) and the livestream of our playoff match is below.