Tyler Lofberg, 11, of Islip, and his three teammates on the Hyper Hydras are frantically building a volcano together on their laptop screens, placing block after block atop each other and adding lava. They are locked in battle with more than a dozen other teams at the Farmingdale Multiplex Cinemas, where a four-week Minecraft video game league has just kicked off.
On this Saturday morning, 68 Long Island kids — primarily tween and teen boys — are competing in a sports-league-style faceoff sponsored by California-based Super League Gaming to crown best Minecraft team.
During this 10-minute round of play, teams are tasked with building a volcano; during other rounds, they have to capture and defend bases or seek and kill enemy teams. While each player has a first-person view of his own character on his laptop, teammates are able to strategize.
Various views of the field of gameplay are flashed onto the theater’s movie screen during the 90 minutes of competition.
Brett Morris, 45, is president and chief operating officer of Super League Gaming, based in Santa Monica, California. He says the idea for Minecraft league play came to him after watching his daughters play both organized physical sports and informal video games.
He’d take them to sports practices and sports league games and think, “How come there can’t be a place gamers can go to practice and compete just like you can in physical sports?”
So Super League launched last year, initially with one-day events and then with nationwide league competition last year. “What is the perfect arena for playing? That’s where the theaters came in,” he says.
Playing at the theater gets kids out of playing online from their bedrooms and into a more social setting, Morris says. Teammates sit next to each other and can coordinate their efforts and high-five, he says.
“By the end of four weeks, they have new friends,” says Lora Levison, 24, of Los Angeles, a Super League employee who travels to the competitions. “Friends and frenemies,” she jokes.
When players arrive at the theater for the first week, they’re issued a Super League T-shirt and lanyard that will be used for admission in future weeks. The teams have names such as Blades of Fire, Fellowship of the Craft, Hyper Hydras or Pig Warriors, some of which are taken from elements of the Minecraft game.
Each player should check the Super League website for minimum recommended laptop spec requirements, must come with Minecraft already loaded onto a laptop and battery fully charged, should get authenticated online by Minecraft that day for ease of login and should bring an external mouse, Morris says.
Kids in 68 theaters in North America are playing the same version of the game; Super League created its own game for the league, called Galactic Mission. Farmingdale is the only current Long Island location. SuperLeague.com has a running leader board on its website, and the winning team of the hundreds competing in North America is awarded $15,000 to split and use toward college. (The winning team in Farmingdale, after the four weeks, is Proper Squad.)
Parents are invited to stay and watch for free. “These kids take performance-enhancing drugs for Minecraft: a lot of sugar, candy,” jokes one dad.
“She gets to work out her thumbs,” jokes another dad, Joe Morrison of Farmingdale, who says his daughter, Sarah, 11, is a “Minecraft junkie.”
Amber Ellis, 11, of Brentwood, says playing the game is educational and that playing it competitively will help her with her future. “I want a career in gaming,” Ellis says.
WHAT Super League Minecraft competition
WHEN | WHERE The next four-week session will begin at 10:30 a.m. on April 30 at Farmingdale Multiplex Cinemas, 1001 Broad Hollow Rd. The Minecraft game will have a superhero theme.
INFO $60 per player for four weeks; 802-294-2754; register starting Tuesday at superleague.com