While the country continues to remain in lockdown, there's no question many Kiwis have already made 'to do' lists to kill extra time.

And one activity that should be on everyone's list is esports, according to Waikato University's OMEN Esports Arena manager Tom Featonby.

"Esports is a fantastic tool you can use to overcome some of the negatives we will inevitably feel over the coming weeks," Mr Featonby said.

He said esports, and gaming in general, is a great de-stressor not only because it's something fun to do, but because of the social and wellbeing aspects of online gaming.

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And from a mental health and wellbeing point of view, esports could prove itself to be an invaluable tool to combat isolation blues.

"Those who don't play online games may find it hard to understand how social, and how important, it is for our mental health.

"Organised esports throughout the lockdown gives opportunities for teamwork, cooperation, coordination, working together to achieve a common goal and, most importantly, community and socialisation.

"This is a very important time not only to be looking after your immediate needs, but to also be focusing on mental health impacts that the lockdown will be having."

While many may think gaming can be an all-consuming activity, Featonby acknowledges there needs to be a balance. He said a recent study showed that video games shouldn't be played for extended periods of time, or as a means to escape reality.

Instead, gaming should be used as a platform to organise and facilitate opportunities of gaming together through esports.

As for those interested in taking up esports, Featonby advises to start small.

"Don't think you have to get the most expensive gaming PC you can afford. Get a modest set-up and see if gaming and esports is really for you. Then find a community.

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"Gamers, especially esports players, are almost always happy to help new people in the scene. The more people that play and engage, the better it is for everyone in the industry."

Featonby says the two key gaming communities in New Zealand are Standing Fierce and Ping Zero. The former is a one-stop-shop for all fighting games. The latter is for everything else, where they also host in-person and online events. The most popular esport globally, however, is League of Legends.

One activity that should be on everyone's list is esports, according to Waikato University's OMEN Esports Arena Manager Tom Featonby. Photo / Supplied
One activity that should be on everyone's list is esports, according to Waikato University's OMEN Esports Arena Manager Tom Featonby. Photo / Supplied

"It's free, and can play on almost any PC, as long as it's not too old."

And if you're worried about your internet connection during the lockdown, Featonby says it shouldn't be an issue.

"Online gaming actually doesn't use much data. In fact, it uses less than YouTube or Netflix. The most important thing for online gaming is speed, so most people will find their internet is perfectly okay for online gaming."

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, they are 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.

"This will all take place online so it's the perfect tool to battle the isolation our young people will be feeling at the moment."

Featonby told the Hamilton News earlier in the year that the competition will involve students from secondary schools around the country competing in an online league tournament during the second school term to determine who the top tier competitors are.

Before the Covid-19 lock down, the best of the best were to face off in an Esports grand finale hosted by the university on its Hamilton campus on July 18, but that may be subject to change.

"We will have a bit of an event on at the final which will be held in the Gallagher Academy of Performing Art," Featonby said.

The final will be streamed online.

"We will make it like a big esports final and hopefully we can get a few people down to support the players. We will also have commentators who will be students trained throughout the season to take part in the event."

Others shouldn't feel left out, says Featonby, as the OMEN Esports Arena has opened up their esports community to the wider public.

"We will be running online tournaments and game nights to keep our community engaged and connected during the lockdown period, and people can check out these details through our Facebook page."

The Waikato has been a strong performer for the local esports scenes, with several top players for the different gaming codes coming out of the region.