Blog #2: Getting a job in eSports.

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So you want to get a job in eSports.  F*** yeah!  As I indicated in my last blog, you have been emailing me in droves telling me so.

Well, I have to be honest with you.  The chances of your getting a job in eSports are like the odds of you beating Bomber on the ladder.  The industry may be growing, but it is still in its infancy, and competition is fierce for the few jobs that exist.

On the other hand, there is plenty of room for you to be an entrepreneur in eSports.  In other words, I believe you can make a living at this if you are willing to be one of those people who wade in, get to work, and grow the industry.  You can either do this full time, or as a side business.

People are doing this right now all around you.  Take, for example, the fine folks at Twitch.TV.  They are young, smart and entrepreneurial.  They burst onto the eSports scene and in less than a year revolutionized the way we consume eSports.

Then there are these panelists at the Princeton eSports Symposium, organized by the Collegiate StarLeague.  Each of them is currently making a living at eSports, and each of them did it by creating something from scratch—often on the side while they were still students. 

“Be an entrepreneur?” you say.  “That is so risky!  What if I work hard and fail?  I have college debt!  I have to eat!  My parents/wife/Manfred will lose all respect for me!  I have to join a real company, and make a real salary!  Can’t you give me a job?  I want to work at something that makes me happy!”

I hear you.  The idea of growing something from scratch is risky and it is scary and it is hard work.  Just listen to the cautionary words from the eSports panelists at the end of that Symposium.  The road is not easy.  If leaping into the entrepreneurial end of the eSports pool makes you nervous, then go get a 9 to 5 job with my blessing, and know that I will still respect you in the morning.

Bomber Taking a Risk — Photo: Larry Yount/Red Bull Content Pool

But consider this.  The world economy is in the dumps, people are being laid off in droves and our generation is competing with more experienced workers for existing jobs.  It is hard to get a corporate job anywhere.  On top of that, the marketplace for labor is itself changing.  In your father’s generation, people worked for the same employer their entire lives.  As a result, you have probably grown up with the idea that getting a job with a big company is the safe, respectable thing to do.  Well, it may not be anymore. 

For the last decade, most new jobs in the US have been created not at large corporations, but in start-ups and small businesses.  Computers and the internet are changing how businesses work and who they need.  Studies suggest that future employees will largely be journeymen with highly specialized skills, moving from job to job throughout their lives, porting their benefits and pension plans with them.  Your college diploma may not be enough.  In that future world, security will lie in having novel and adaptive thinking, cross-cultural competency, computational thinking, new-media literacy, expertise in multiple disciplines, and an ability to craft solutions.

Frankly, in view of all this, I think plunging into an eSports business during a recession—or any startup—is a lot less foolish than it looks.

But let’s take a worst case scenario.  Let’s say you fail at this attempt to run an eSports business—whether it is something ambitious like an eSports convention, or something modest like a BarCraft.  Let’s say I fail, too.  What are the consequences for us?  What will we be left with, you and I, beside a ton of student debt, a car payment and some great gaming memories? 

 

Based on my experience, we’ll be fine.  Over the past two years, I have been able to travel all over the world and meet fascinating, smart, funny, inspiring people—including celebrities.  I have learned how to incorporate a company, work with partners and mentors, understand business taxes, protect my IP, hire and manage people, juggle a demanding schedule, write magazine articles, give speeches, cold call, network, negotiate deals, set prices, meet payroll, and construct a website. 

If Day[9]TV goes under (and it won’t), I will have all that on my resume, and I think it makes me more employable than the guy next door who just has a diploma.  I will point out that even doing a BarCraft or a regional tournament requires a lot of organizational hustle, troubleshooting, and marketing.

I know my experience with Day[9]TV has made me a hell of a lot more sensitive to my next employer’s agenda.  I know now first hand how hard it is to run a company and make money—how quickly what you bring in gets eaten up by overhead and salaries.  (It’s been an eye opener.) I’ve learned how important it is to communicate well.  To be efficient.  To problem solve.  To hustle.  To adapt. From what I can see, game publishers, tournament organizers and eSports community sites are all looking for employees with real world hustle, not joiners.  And there is solid evidence that employers outside eSports are looking for the same thing.

My graduation gift from TotalBiscuit.

Personally, I think that my twenties are also a great time to experiment with the way I make a living, to figure out what I enjoy and what I am good at—before I have a family and a mortgage.  I think of Day[9]TV as an additional life diploma.  If Malcolm Gladwell is correct, it takes about ten years to become an expert.  That means I have time enough to develop a few different areas of expertise over the course of my life.

Consider, too, that there are many kinds of wealth to bank upon.  Some of it is financial security which is undoubtedly important.  But an accumulation of experience and memory is also an important kind of wealth.  When I am old, I want to know that I have lived fully.  Right now, if Day[9]TV fails, I know that my partners and I will have been a part of paradigm shift in technology and entertainment that has defined an era.  We will be able to say we were where the action was, that we helped grow an industry and a game that we love.

The bottom line is that I believe you should embrace entrepreneurship not because it is a club you join, but because it is a lifestyle, full of challenges and self-analysis.  In short, business is a lot like StarCraft.  It’s another ladder. Intimidating at first, yes, but conquerable through systematic learning, hard work, disciplined experimentation and adaptation in the face of failure.  I apply myself to it every day.  I experience victories and setbacks along the way, but overall I’m learning and progressing. 

And I’m loving the process.  I think you will, too.