Blog #7.0: Tournaments 101 Continued

  (Edited: )

So I’ve been on the road and away from this blog.  Let’s recap what we’ve learned so far before we go on with our discussion of how to produce eSports tournaments.

1.  You want to get a job in eSports. I've suggested you invent one instead.

Credit: Henry Yang, TeSPA

I’ve suggested to you that jobs in eSports are few and far between and are largely awarded to the most qualified, experienced applicants.  You therefore face a Catch-22:  you need experience in eSports to get a job, but until somebody hires you, you can't get the experience you need.

How do you get around this problem?  My advice to you is to be entrepreneurial, and build an eSports venture of your own.  This doesn’t have to be an empire:  just something that demonstrates your talent, drive and initiative.  Build a local eSports club at your high school or college.  Hold a BarCraft or organize a local tournament or LAN.  Start small, on your campus or in your city.  Event organization is a learned skill:  you will be doing a lot of juggling, managing people and resources.  If you demonstrate that you can successfully produce a local event like this, you are much more likely to be hired by a large commercial eSports organization.  Besides, building communities is fun—it’s a great way to connect with like-minded eSports fans.

2.  Treat your new venture more like a business and less like a hobby.

In an earlier post, I gave you some gentle warnings:  events take money, which means fundraising, bookkeeping, negotiation, licenses and contracts.  It may even mean taxes, insurance, lawyers and accountants.  Treat your venture seriously.  Run it like a real business.

In fact, get a business mentor—perhaps the parent of a friend or a relative—who is experienced and can help guide you in the creation and operation of your microbusiness.  You will be amazed how open and helpful experienced business people can be if asked.  You will be amazed how interesting the process is.

3. Recruit co-workers and create an organizational structure and explicit goals.

In my last post, I interviewed the Rosen brothers of the Texas eSports Association about how they produced their hugely successful grassroots eSports event, the LoneStar Clash.  I chose the Rosens because they are college students, without particular experience or connections in eSports, who have managed to produce a series of amazingly professional events.  If they can do it, so you can you.

Credit: Henry Yang, TeSPA

The Rosens indicated that they began their eSports adventure by holding a campus meeting to determine the potential size of their local community.  From there, they  recruited fellow students to help staff and build their event.   The Rosens were inventive about finding fellow gaming fans and didn’t limit themselves to a single group or a single campus.  They put up posters and announcements at universities, high schools, game shops, comic book stores, vocational and tech schools, high tech companies, and incubators.  They made postings on popular forums like TeamLiquid.net and reddit.com/r/starcraft.  They arranged for their meetups to be calendared in campus event pages. They reached out to existing eSports groups and BarCrafts in their area and partnered with them. They saturated their region in every way they could think to expand participation in their events.

The Rosens organized their core community group, the Texas eSports Association, like a company.  They assigned specific titles to fellow volunteers, and held them accountable for specific tasks.  They made sure everyone met as a group regularly—at least once a week, with many sub meetings during the week for special focus groups.  They encouraged, mentored and inspired their group to think big and to think quality.  They identified key volunteers who were especially good at working with others, or who had special talents or experience, and held them accountable for meeting specific goals by specific dates.  They called out and publicly recognized good work.

Building a local community and producing a tournament event was a major undertaking, and the Rosens said they had to treat it like a job, working on some aspect of their event every day for months.

Credit: Henry Yang, TeSPA

4.  Maintain excellent communication.

According to the Rosens, more than 70 people worked to make LoneStar II happen.  Managing that many people required not only a formal organizational structure but an excellent communication system.

In additional to holding regular meetings, the Rosens and TeSPA established a number of online hangouts to facilitate dialogue within the group:  a website,  Skype threads, a closed Facebook page, a newsletter.  They also compiled an email list of local eSports community members, so they could gauge the potential size of a prospective audience, continue to recruit talent, and keep local gamers informed of their activities.

5.  Start modestly and iterate, learning as you go and amassing resources and experience.

The Rosens worked their way up to the LoneStar Clashes by first producing a series of smaller events.   They started small, to keep themselves from getting into financial or logistical trouble. They began with a borrowed venue, borrowed internet, and borrowed equipment (they used their own computers and their university gave them free space).  They bootstrapped their first tournament event with cash from ticket sales and registration fees. Then they rinsed and repeated, producing a series of events (at least one per semester), that slowly upped the ante in terms of cost and sophistication—making each event bigger and better than the last.  This allowed them to learn from their mistakes, generate cash, acquire better and better equipment, and test the skills and commitment of their co-workers. This also ensured that they had a proven track record of successful events--including photos of happy crowds, and historical viewer metrics--when they finally approached sponsors about financing larger tournaments.

Credit: Henry Yang, TeSPA

6.  Establish internal experts within your group.

There was a lot to learn along the way.  Early on, the Rosens assigned a dedicated team of volunteers to focus on conquering the technical issues associated with livestreaming a tournament event. That group did nothing but test, test, and retest their equipment setup in the months preceding their event to ensure there would be no hiccups during broadcast.

The Rosens assigned additional internal experts to advise them on how to market to sponsors, design promotional materials, create a website and publicize the event.  Yet other teams focused on recruiting players and casters and arranging hotels, meals and pleasant meet and greets  in Texas.  This was particularly important, because the Rosens wanted participants to return for future events.

7.  Learn to network locally and nationally.

The Rosens and their group had to learn how to network, in order to recruit the best players, casters and sponsors and  stay abreast of technical developments in the field.   Networking also brought them to the attention of national eSports groups, who soon recognized that the competency of the TeSPA team.  In fact, a number of TeSPA members have subsequently worked or volunteered at major pro league tournament events around the country.   So bear in mind that networking can be a helpful foot in the door if you are seeking a career in eSports.   

Next up:  How tournaments make money