Russia opens its first state cybersports school for 'fighters of the virtual stadium'

Team liquids scrim room at the Alienware training facility in Utrecht
(Image credit: Team Liquid)

The regional government of Novosibirsk recently announced it was opening the first state 'cybersports school' in Russia, via its official Telegram channel. "Dozens of athletes" are already enrolled, and classes in DOTA 2 and League of Legends have begun for children over the age of 12.

The school is based out of Novosibirsk's Olympic Reserve Shooting School, and the standards for entry aren't necessarily what you expect. Potential entrants are screened according to their abilities in both videogames and physical sports. Any man who wants to enrol at the highest levels of esports training must be able to run 3km in under 15 minutes, do 33 sit-ups and 25 squats without stopping, and extend their fingers 6cm past their toes on a raised platform without bending their knees. 

Women, meanwhile, have to be able to run 2km in under 12 minutes, do 32 sit-ups and 23 squats, and reach 8cm past their toes. Either way, I'm out of the running.

The physical requirements were set forth in Russia's "federal standards of computer sports training" which were published in January this year. Those standards also mandate that 'cybersports' (or esports, to you and me) training is divided into "general and specialised physical training" on the one hand and "technical, tactical, theoretical, and psychological" training on the other. In other words, it sounds incredibly intense, which is probably to be expected from a government school that usually specialises in turning out Olympic athletes.

In terms of equipment, the new school is obliged to provide an incredibly exacting list of gear to its students. Chairs and desks must be a certain height off the ground, monitors must be 144hz and have a response time of no more than 1 millisecond, and mice must be wired and have a DPI of 16000. Amusingly, the only detail which isn't hyper-specific is the GPU, which is only required to "work comfortably with 3D content". I suppose DOTA and LoL aren't graphical powerhouses anyway. 

It's all part of the Russian government's broader effort to cultivate a domestic base of tech talent and reduce its reliance on western technology and expertise. Games are a big part of that push. It was only last week we got news that Russian devs were looking at building a state-backed 'national game engine', and this is one more part of that bigger picture. In early July, the State Duma Committee on Physical Culture and Sports highlighted the need for political and financial support for Russian "games, software, [and] modern IT solutions". By integrating esports into the Russian state's formidable (and infamous) Olympics machine, they're hoping to gin up enthusiasm for homegrown tech development and, most likely, score some propaganda victories in a few Cold War style 'east vs west' esports showdowns.

Thanks, RB.RU.

Joshua Wolens
News Writer

One of Josh's first memories is of playing Quake 2 on the family computer when he was much too young to be doing that, and he's been irreparably game-brained ever since. His writing has been featured in Vice, Fanbyte, and the Financial Times. He'll play pretty much anything, and has written far too much on everything from visual novels to Assassin's Creed. His most profound loves are for CRPGs, immersive sims, and any game whose ambition outstrips its budget. He thinks you're all far too mean about Deus Ex: Invisible War.