Blog #2.5: Your responses to Blog 2.0

  (Edited: )

I was so intrigued by your responses to Blog #2 (“Getting a Job in eSports”) that I decided to bump back Blog #3 and jump into the current discussion.  I’m calling this Blog 2.5.

Frankly, some of your feedback is almost better than the blog, itself.  I am especially grateful to Guardian504, Eagles8908, entropyfails, alexpenn, robzgod, Sk-aBhorsen, Furyio, and striderstone for their real world anecdotes and advice about working in eSports. This is exactly the kind of dialogue I wanted to stimulate when I created the blog.  Please continue contributing!  In fact, if ANY of you have useful anecdotes, resources, or corrections which improve the original post, please, please comment away so that they’re permanently available for future readers.  :>

The remarks and questions I am referring to can be found in the comments section to the original blog post, as well as in this  thread on /r/Starcraft and in this thread on /r/LeagueOfLegends.  (Welcome Summoners! I am delighted to see gaming communities outside StarCraft jump into this eSports conversation!) 

Credit: Hogan "kamRA" Carter

Ok, back to the actual blog.

It was suggested in the scReddit thread that the success I have had in eSports is a result of:  

  1. My personal acquaintance with an “old boys' club”
  2. The fact that I “got in early” before the eSports market organized and streaming was widely established
  3. Dumb luck.  

This leaves readers wondering: “How can I do it if I don’t have #1, #2 or #3 like you?”  The answer is that the road, while hard, is much more straightforward than it looks. :D 

1) Dat “old boys' club.” 

Yes, there are figureheads already established in eSports.  They have a jump on you.  You will be competing with them.  So what?

Any newcomer trying to penetrate ANY market will always have to contend with the status quo.  Always.  You are the newb.  They are the old timers.  They paid their dues.  They earned their spurs.  They helped build the industry.  They are now profiting from it. That’s the way it works.  They don’t “owe you” a place at their dinner table.  (Although they’d probably welcome you there.)  

So, let go of them conspiracy theories!  That kind of mentality is an unhelpful crutch that will keep you from making progress.  It’s like screaming “imbalance!” every time you lose a game as a result of your own ineptitude.

The fact there is a status quo does not preclude you in any way from coming in and disrupting what those “old boys” have built or from working alongside them or erecting something new of your own.  

The key is to innovate and carve out your own niche.  This is a well established principle in business. There is a cycle of innovation and disruption that is happening continually in every industry out there, but which is especially vigorous at present.  New people are constantly coming to the table with a new angle on old marketplaces.

For example, Apple disrupted the long-established music publishing industry with iTunes.  ITunes is now itself being disrupted by Spotify.  Netflix disrupted Blockbuster.  Netflix is now being challenged by Hulu, Amazon, Time Warner and others.  In our own eSports world, Riot and Valve are challenging Blizzard.  It’s called market dynamics.   I will point out that none of these players wrung their hands and whined that they weren’t being invited to the dinner table by the “old boys club.”  They just figured out an angle and moved in.

Credit: CNN Money Bytes beat bricks.

So get disruptive!  Stop making excuses, get on the competitive business ladder, and start climbing. 

Most of the personalities you know in the StarCraft community began by pushing an idea with persistence, not by having special connections.  Ben “MrBitter” Nichols, perhaps best known as a caster at NASL, began by creating a show 12 Weeks with the Pros. Chris "ChanmanV" Chan began by creating his show ChanmanV's Pro Corner and securing a sponsorship from Razer.  Hell, when I began the Day[9] Daily, the ONLY thing I had was a sub-par webcam and StarCraft experience.  I didn’t know anything about encoding, production, lighting, talking in front of a camera, or even any people at any of the major eSports organizations (except perhaps my brother).  But, I showed up every day, kept pushing, and after 150 episodes, finally received an invite to my first live event. 

Did knowing people in the StarCraft community help me?  To a degree.  TeamLiquid did send me some traffic, for which I was grateful. Keep in mind that I spent a decade building relationships over there, and for a long time I, too, was just another new kid on the block, starstruck and tongue-tied by the likes of community heroes like Nazgul and djWHEAT and Sir Scoots. But those connections were no substitute for the hard work of churning out content.

Could knowing people in the gaming industry help you?  Yes.  It’s called “networking.”  It is an important business skill.  I’ll try to do a blog on that, as well.  But there are no magic keys to the kingdom, no gatekeepers who are going to “make” or “break” you.

2)  “Getting in on the ground floor.” 

Yes, I was lucky to get into live streaming and casting early. 

Credit: Norlando Pobre/Flickr CC BY

But note that I got into streaming and casting after having failed at any number of other opportunities.  I never became an admin on TL, I never flew to Korea as a pro gamer, I failed as a podcaster, and I gave up on blogging before I ever started.  These were all emerging opportunities available to me as a result of Web 2.0, and I failed to take advantage of them.  And before I knew it, others had succeeded in my place. 

But we live in exciting times.  Technology is rapidly evolving, and I realized that there were new opportunities cropping up all the time.  I just kept looking for my niche.

I eventually seized upon live streaming not because some community crony whispered in my ear, or because I realized I was getting in on the ground floor of something big, but just because I wanted to talk about StarCraft.  I’m lazy, and I thought it would be faster and easier to talk than write, and since it was live, if I f***ed up I would have an excuse not to go back and fix my commentary.  (This was important because I was busy with grad school).  

In short, I stumbled into streaming and had no idea it was going to become as successful as it did.

I started out with 57 viewers.  After a while, I noticed the Daily was ranked as one of the top streams on LiveStream.  At first, I was baffled by this.  In fact, for the longest time, the two most popular shows on LiveStream were the Day[9] Daily and the Arab news service Al-Jazeera.  Since the news agency had more than 500 employees (I looked it up) and I only had me, broadcasting from my room with my grainy webcam, I figured this was an aberration, and the Daily couldn’t really be all that special.  Later, when I moved to UStream and then Twitch.TV, I received frantic e-mails from LiveStream asking me to come back.  Only then did I realize the scope of the Daily’s influence.

Husky, Himself   Credit: www.waytaoshing.com

The Daily led to casting opportunities.  But even after I got in on the ground floor of live streaming, and started churning out content, I continued to screw up and not clue in to important opportunities.  

For example, I had no idea that YouTube was going to be as an important a marketplace for video content as it is.  (I thought it was for cat videos and machinima.)  I had no idea there was an explosion of smart video content creation going on over there. I completely ignored YouTube as a content platform.  Meanwhile Husky saw that opportunity, ran with it, and quickly earned his place in the community.  He now has a second popular YouTube channel.  I will probably never catch up with his YouTube success.

Does this bother me?  No!  I have other fish to fry.  Besides, even YouTube will not last forever.  Already, there are murmurings that YouTube content creators are moving elsewhere, lured by the potential of other disruptive technologies and platforms. Put another way:  there are opportunities to get in on the ground floor of something new every day.   ESports is in its infancy.  There are people right now, jumping on board emerging technologies, who will be the “old boys' club” of tomorrow.  It could be you. 

How will you know about these opportunities?  Because you will do your homework. You will do a ton of market research (I will suggest how in the next blog), so that you understand what is coming down the pike technologically, and how it might work for you. 

3)  Dumb Luck.  

Have you seen me play Magic the Gathering?  I never draw land ever.  Ever.  I am totally unlucky.