Bett 2024: The esports path to pro: From passion to profession

E-Sports was a big topic at Bett. I had expected AI to take the spotlight and while it had a major presence, Microsoft’s stand was dedicated to their AI co-pilot and other companies were happy to advertise their use of AI. E-Sports dominated. It even had its own dedicated area, where talks on the topic took place situated by The British E-Sports Federation’s stall. Computing hardware companies were expected to be seen at Bett as computers have always been used in education however, I noticed computing companies stands were advertising their participation in E-Sports in education. Lenovo was all about E-Sports and Alienware, a Dell subsidiary was a notable attendee as their machines are designed for gamers really cementing the interest of gaming within education.

I attended a talk hosted at the E-Sports area, whilst the area was far from full capacity, there were a fair number of attendees. The talk focused on the path from E-Sports as a passion to a profession. Described on the Bett website as “What does the path to pro as an esports player or staff member look like? This talk will include advice for parents, senior leaders in schools and students who want to work in the industry.

There are more roles in E-Sports than just being an “E-Athlete” (?) and notably none of the speakers were E-Athlete’s, the speakers were from various parts of the industry, from an Event Manager to a Chief Operating Officer. E-Sports is a legit business with companies requiring managerial positions just like any other.

  • Dominic Sacco, Editor – Esports News UK
  • Jeff Simpkins, Chief Operating Officer – Resolve
  • Elliot Bond, Event Manager – GiantX
  • Kit Brunswick, Head of Player Pathway and Safeguarding – Guild Esports

The talk began with speaking on the state of the gaming industry. We have just witnessed multiple companies conducting huge layoffs. Riot games had just cut 11% of its workforce, 530 jobs around the world and Microsoft announced they are laying off 1900 people from Xbox and their recently acquired Activision Bizzard. When it came to E-Sports specifically, the current climate described as “touch and go” the idea that the “golden era” has ended, and players should not expect to be acquiring super lucrative deals as one used to was stressed. While this may not sound promising Elliot Bond, an Events Manager at GiantX described this to be “Market Stabilization” after a “Gold Rush” a common phenomenon witnessed in industries after the initial hype the line experiences a fall. The question is whether the line will stabilize or continue to fall. Growth in the E-Sports industry is slower than in the gaming industry. Of course, the pandemic was cited as a reason for this instability. Despite all this Elliot showed optimism, stressing that there is still money to be made in the industry.

The talk shifted to the goal of E-Sports. Jeff Simpkins, a Chief Operating Officer at Resolve spoke on E-Sports’ teams focus on securing sponsorships and partnerships, apparently “forgetting” that E-Sports teams should be used as a promotion tool for games and the best teams to publishers. He suggested teams selling in-game items using his Team at Resolve selling an in-game item in Rocket League, a competitive vehicular soccer video game with an active E-Sports scene. While he did acknowledge that sponsorships are where the money is he seemed adamant about adding to the already overly monetized in-game shops and shifting focus more to selling to consumers.

The panel was proud to mention the various courses in E-Sports at BTEC and degree level as proof of the growing interest in E-Sports as a career. The University of Northampton hosts a BSc in E-Sports, modules focusing on “business and marketing, events, broadcasting, and media, esports coaching, and the psychology of performance and wellbeing of esports performers.” Pearson launched the BTEC qualification 2020 and has approved 160 centres to teach the qualification around the world. What is clear is that the passion is there with stories of receiving emails from hopefuls wishing to be a content creator for their organizations and an anecdotal story about a young boy who was an event attendee vlogging his experience. He engaged with panellists who were so impressed with his conduct that they offered him a position.

Towards the end of the talk was focused on common misconceptions. Kit Brunswick is a Head of Player Pathway and Safeguarding at Guild Esports, so it only made sense that he was the one to dispel the stereotype of E-Sports players sitting in a dark room grinding and just playing the games. In fact, he described it as “healthier than what people think.” The Players he manages engage in mediation and mindfulness are made sure they eat right, even being taught how to cook for themselves.

Overall, the talk was insightful. A lot of it felt like damage control and constant justification for the existence of E-Sports with the wish to be taken as a serious career path. This is all understandable as playing video games are still seen as a casual hobby, some may regard finding a career in the space as silly and fail to understand its potential. Especially when it comes to pursuing a qualification in it. There has always been a stigma towards degrees that are outside the traditional sciences, engineering, and mathematics commonly disregarded ass “Mickey Mouse” degrees. It is going to take a lot of convincing to get the public to even consider E-Sports qualification something to take seriously. E-Sports goes beyond just the players, it is an entire industry with a need for managers, marketers, and journalism. Traditional sports such as Football and Tennis etc are all games with huge industries. Even Chess a tabletop game has its own league, so why should it change if the game is digital?

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By Dominique Walker

IT Graduate

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