With crime up, DC hopes eSports competition can keep teens occupied, safe

Teenagers had the chance to win cash prizes by competing on the latest iteration of the Madden NFL video game in D.C.’s Ward 7 this weekend.

The D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) hosted the Madden 22 Tournament at the Deanwood Community Center at 49th St Northeast. The competition, put together by DPR’s eSports division, was the first time the group held a gaming tournament in person since it was created in 2020.

Jason Lewis, a recreation specialist with Trinidad Recreation Center, said it’s important to keep the youth engaged.

“Especially with the uptick in violence in D.C. right now, where it’s getting younger, and younger and younger — I mean, the kids, they definitely need something to occupy their time, occupy their mind, and gaming is one of the things,” he said.

Lewis acknowledged that some people frown on gaming and argue kids need to be outside, but he said, with current crime in the District,  there’s a high chance kids may end up in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Marcus Allen, program manager for DPR’s eSports division said holding virtual tournaments remotely sometimes felt lacking, and he was excited to begin playing in-person.

“We’ve had several Madden tournaments online and it’s been kind of lackluster.With the sports games you need to be next to someone, and so now we’ve got this so we’ve got excitement,” Allen said.

Sonia Sultana, another recreation specialist with DPR, agreed that keeping the youth busy can save them from a lot of trouble.

“If we don’t teach them the right way, we can’t expect them to do well,” Sultana said.

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