XP League logo on the wall of the new Kirkland location. Credit: Kari Hanson
The first Northwest franchise of XP League — the esports gaming league — recently opened in Kirkland. With over 50 locations across the United States and Canada, XP League describe itself as “the little league of esports.”
XP League has a strong focus on community and helping kids build life skills, including sportsmanship, teamwork, strategic thinking and problem solving. XP League is part of the Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA), an organization dedicated to cultivating a positive youth sports culture. In fact, XP League is the only coach-led competitive gaming league in North America for elementary-, middle- and high school-age players that is a member of the PCA.
What XP League offers
XP League Redmond is located in a business development in Kirkland with plenty of parking. The main gaming room has 24 computers, complete with cool blue LED lighting around each station and keyboards backlit with rainbows, or the green and blue XP League colors. While I was there, a handful of kids were playing different games as they chatter and laughed with each other. Two coaches walked around offering tips and encouragement.
Kids ages 8–17 can join a team for popular online games including Minecraft, Fortnite, Roblox and League of Legends (see the website for a complete list). Teams are formed based on the player’s skill level and age. However, if a group of kids want to join XP League together and form a team, they can!
In addition to formal teams, XP League Redmond will be offering drop-in gaming time, summer camps, noncompetitive clubs, birthday parties and parents’ night out events. Camps will include a variety of activities in addition to playing video games. You can learn more about upcoming winter break camps (on Dec. 18 and 19) on the website.
How it works
Teams meet once a week for an hour-long practice with a coach, and have one game per week as well. Since XP League is a national league, games will be against different teams from all over the country.
Elizabeth Butenko, the co-owner of XP League Redmond, looks forward to opportunities to partner with the esports teams from University of Washington. She also hopes that as the teams form and the program grows, they will have opportunities to engage with each other away from the computers, potentially through community service projects.
For the most part, kids on XP League Redmond esports teams will game together, in-person at the Kirkland location. This gives the kids a change to connect with one another (coaches will lead ice-breaker and get-to-know-you games at the beginning of their practice time), and the coaches a change to give players tips and support in real time as they play.
However, if kids want to join a team and cannot get to the Kirkland location, they will have the option of joining virtually. If kids want to join a team that is not available in Kirkland, they can use the XP League network of teams to join a team in another location. Bottom line: There are lots of ways for kids to engage with teams, in-person and virtually.
Community and Safety
While you can debate whether video gaming should be called a sport, there’s no question that these kids are part of a team. Kids love traditional sports (and parents love for their kids to participate) largely for the team aspect. Kids learn how to work together, and to deal with loss and disappointment, all while hanging out with friends who share a common interest. Esports offer that same team engagement, and for kids who are not interested in athletics, they’re a wonderful way to connect and get the benefits of a sports team.
One major concern regarding online video games (especially for young players) is that parents don’t know who their kids are interacting with or playing against online. Much like any interactive internet platform, online video game environments can become toxic, and kids can find themselves in scary or questionable situations, when all they wanted to do was play Minecraft. When kids play online games at XP League, they are always playing in private, secure locations with other XP League players only. If a team member wants to play at home, they have access to these same safe and secure online locations.
If you’ve got a kid who loves playing video games, XP League Redmond is a great option for safe game play, community and an opportunity to develop some important life skills.
If you go...
Find it: XP League Redmond is located in a small shopping mall in Kirkland, at 12537 116th Ave. N.E., Kirkland.
Hours: Hours vary by day, check the website for details. It is currently closed Tuesdays and Sundays.
Cost: Team memberships start at $179 per month, Club Membership (for Minecraft and Roblox only) is $129 per month. See the website for more information about what is included with various membership levels. Team members at all levels receive at least one practice per week, one game per week and a custom jersey. Contact XP League for information about camps.
Parking: There is plenty of free parking in the parking lot right outside the building. There are a variety of places to eat, shop and grab a coffee nearby while you wait for your gamer.