WHS student charts high-powered course

Published 5:14 pm Thursday, April 18, 2024

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Several thoughts were racing through Washington High School student Xzavier (Zay) Lewis’ mind as his computer science teacher and Esports coach Will Tyson escorted him toward the front office Wednesday afternoon.

“Am I in trouble?” the softspoken junior asked Tyson, while trying to imagine what exactly he could have done to get pulled out of class. Tyson didn’t respond, but instead of steering Lewis into the principal’s office, they turned right and entered one of the school conference rooms.

Lewis walked through the door to the sound of cameras snapping shots of his reaction to a brand new computer gaming system sitting on the table in front of him.

“Congratulations man!” Varsity Esports & STEM League (VESL) representative Josh Richardson said, “We liked your essay, so this is all yours.”

It took Lewis a moment to process the statement, then his face went from concerned to incredulous. It took another moment for him to speak.

“Wow, really? Thank you so much.”

Lewis is part of Tyson’s Esports team, which in its second year, has joined the VESL league of schools from across North Carolina who compete to see who plays four different video games the best. There’s a season in the fall, with competitions twice a week and spring season that is just starting.

Lewis is a solid player, but has much greater ambitions, which is why he entered the contest to win the high-powered gaming system that no regular computer can come close to matching.

“I want to actually design the games, because since I play the games, I know what gamers want to play,” Lewis said. “I’m in the middle of designing a game, but my computer at home just isn’t powerful enough to handle actually making a video game. That’s what I told them in my essay and I’m amazed and very happy they picked mine.”

Lewis is one of 12 winners out of 3,000 entrants from gamers across North Carolina to win the $1,500 system that comes with a 24’ high definition monitor and plenty of accessories.

“Zay absolutely crushed (aced) both of my computer science classes and the sky is the limit for him,” Tyson said. “He is phenomenal at programming and would finish his class work before everybody else, then go work on his own projects. I know he is going to build several great games now that he has the system to handle it.”

Lewis started playing video games when he was 10 and quickly became interested in how the games were built and taught himself the framework behind them. His essay described his passion for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and what he could accomplish with a new system.

“I’m excited and very grateful,” Lewis said. “I’ve known for a while what kind of games I want to build and now I have the technology to actually do it. This is really cool and I’m ready to set it up right now.”