If there's one activity that can flourish during the country's current lockdown, it's esports. And University of Waikato student Luke Horan knows this all too well.

Horan, an avid online gamer who has climbed the top of gaming ranks in New Zealand and Oceania, says now is a perfect time for people around the country to take up esports.

"Esports is a great outlet because it combines competition with a sense of online community. And because it's a digital activity, it's something most people can participate in at home," Horan said.

Despite his young age, the former Hamilton Boys' High School student knows his way around the gaming world.

Advertisement

Having started his esports journey at the age of 13 playing the ever-popular game League of Legends, Horan quickly climbed the ranks, solidifying his position as a serious competitor.

"In the first year of playing League I was within the top 5 per cent of players in Oceania. The following year, I got into the top 0.5 per cent. That's when I thought I might actually be able to do something with this."

Horan then moved onto Counter-Strike where, in the space of less than two months, he jumped from #33 in New Zealand's rankings to #11. With only 200,000 or so Counter-Strike players in the country, this, for Horan, was a massive feat.

Despite the opinion that esports requires little skill, many gamers, like Horan, say it's quite the opposite.

"You have to have good precision. It's also about team play, your mindset and thinking ahead of everyone else."

Horan has been named this year's University of Waikato 2degrees Esports Scholarship recipient – the second student to have ever received an esports scholarship of this kind from a New Zealand university.

Worth up to $5000, the scholarship is given to domestic students who demonstrate excellence in esports, as well as leadership experience, or values in relation to health and wellbeing.

Horan feels lucky to be one of the few people in New Zealand to receive a scholarship like this.

Advertisement

"I think it's cool that this scholarship is the only one you can get in New Zealand, and that Waikato has the esports arena where you can come in and play."

It was his passion for gaming that led him to University, where he's studying towards a Bachelor of Computing and Mathematical Sciences with Honours. His goal is to one day become a skilled programmer.

"I got into computer science because of my interest in gaming, and how games are coded. I want to get into coding and hope to do game development as a future career."

Last year, the University teamed up with OMEN (Hewlett Packard's gaming brand) and PB Technologies to open the OMEN Esports Arena – New Zealand's first dedicated university space for esports.

This year, the University is hosting the New Zealand High School League of Legends Championship, which is the first time a New Zealand university will be hosting an esports competition of this kind.

It's tournaments like this that Horan has his eyes set on.

"There will be more esports tournaments happening at the University in the near future, and I want to gain more experience by being a part of them.

"Who knows, if there's an opportunity where I can take things to the next level and make a career out of esports, I'll take it."