OP Live 2018: More than Just Pro-Gamers

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When you hear about eports, it’s almost always about the players. They’re the ones who train, play the matches, and win the money. But the world of esports is large and the jobs within this growing industry are so diverse that you can make your path into esports even if your KDR is negative. Recently, I wrote about OP Live and how I enjoyed the theme of education that was carried throughout the convention.

Beyond the theme of the convention, one of my favorite parts of the convention were the ‘Powered Talks’ they held on the main stage. There were three main ‘Powered Talks’ that I would like to talk about and they follow a nice chronological order from getting involved with esports at the college level to being successful in the collegiate leagues and finally translating those skills into jobs in the gaming industry.

Powered Talk:  Tyler Schrodt (EGF)

Powered Talk by Tyler Schrodt

I want to start with the first one which was presented by Tyler Schrodt the CEO of Electronic Gaming Federation (EFG). The EFG is the governing body for collegiate and high school esports leagues. Think of them as the NCAA, which is behind the rules and organization of traditional sport, but for esports. They work with administrators at universities and high schools to develop esports programs and to make sure they are run correctly and effectively. This means building teams, finding casters, and offering support to those involved which includes practice but also resources for positive mental and physical health. 

His presentation was about how you would go about getting an esports program started at your university. This all sounds pretty simple. Before esports became an organized thing, there was no regulation, leaving most people to meet at someone’s house their own LAN tournaments in the dorms for example. With the advent of conventions like Quakecon in the late 90s, we saw a moved towards a more formalized space.

Nowadays there is a lot of money involved in this over a billion dollar industry and this necessitates official programs to look out for the interests of players, especially when they’re beginning tournaments younger.  The process behind this is one that the EFG helps facilitate for students and universities. Even though the majority of major universities do have esports programs this wasn’t always because the universities said: “this is a great idea.”

The majority of the programs started because of the students.  Those interested would get involved and turn from just wanting these programs into getting them started, which is where Tyler comes in. Tyler did a great job going through how to get involved, who needs to be contacted, how to contact the EFG. He also covered other steps to get the ball rolling. As well as providing context to the scene.

Powered Talk: Mark “Garvey” Candella (Twitch)

The next ‘Powered Talk’ that I want to talk about is by Mark “Garvey” Candella from Twitch. While there was some overlap with Tyler’s talk, Mark focused more the benefits of having an esports program in your university and how it can help not only the university but also the students. He talked about some of the variety of skills that students will learn and develop by being involved in esports programs. Ultimately focusing on the ways individual students learn things and contribute to making their university’s esports program successful.

In the talk, we learned that while you need very talented gamers to be successful you still need lot more things to say fund events, teams, and equipment. You need teach students computer science, media design, marketing, among other non-gaming skills to run a successful eposrts program but this success and skills translate outside the esports arenas. He also pointed out that using Twitch and having a dedicated esports team channel is important along with growing.  When it comes to spreading awareness about your program, whether it’s for funding or talent, promoting a dedicated Twitch channel for your program can help with funding and exposure.

Powered Talk: John Davidson (GameStop)

The last ‘Powered Talk’ I would like to talk about was by John Davidson, president of the Esports Traders Association.  In the progression of these talks, we learned about setting up an esports program and how to learn the necessary skills to run an esports program at the university level. What happens when you leave college? What happens when your gaming skills don’t hold up anymore?

Well, this is now where John’s talk comes in. He speaks to the industry on the professional level. John talked about how esports is now a  billion dollar plus industry and is only expected to continue to grow.  An industry this big isn’t just a place for pro- gamers it is a place for people with a variety of skills. There are more jobs than ever in the gaming industry with more still coming that are not being a “pro-gamer.” You may not think about it, but we are talking about mental health coaches, physical trainers, project managers, and SEO directors just to name a few. So with all this expansion and growth and mixing of people inside and outside of esports he also announced the development of the Esports Traders Association. This is a place where esports can be organized and people from all works of the gaming industry are brought together to improve the overall gaming community and find each other.

Final Thoughts

I just want to say there were more than just these three ‘Powered Talks’ at OP Live and they were all fantastic. Personally, I enjoyed these 3 the most and just loved the way they seemed to fit together. This is not say as well the others did not fit in either, as I said in my other piece the theme of OP Live was education. It was fantastic to see that and be presented with all this information to where if you were a kid or really anyone in the audience that you don’t have to be a pro gamer or even a game developer to be in the gaming industry. Walking away from the convention, you knew that all you really need is the passion for playing games and transferable skills. They also let you know that there are people out there that are developing infrastructure, pipelines, and professional opportunities to show and teach you the way into the industry. I want to leave you with the Esports Traders Association’s motto: By the gaming community for the gaming community.