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  • Blog #7.0: Tournaments 101 Continued

    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

  • Blog #2: Getting a job in eSports.

    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.

  • Blog #1: Why I’m making this blog.

    Credit: Kevin Chang for Team Liquid

    Ahoy beautiful people!  Welcome to my new blog!

    First of all, let me start by thanking you all for watching the show and supporting me for the last three years.  It’s been an amazing and breathtaking ride and it all happened because of you!

    From the bottom of my heart, thank you.  Thank you times billions.

    Second, let me sincerely apologize for not personally answering every one of your emails.  Your thousands and thousands and thousands of emails.  Holy shit, you guys write a lot of emails.  One of the most amazing parts of the Daily is the heartfelt personal responses that come in every day.  They come in every day, nonstop, rain or shine, weekdays, weekends, and holidays from every corner of the globe.  Hundreds of emails, with personal stories and jokes and artwork and replays and show ideas and shoutcasting assignments and special requests.

    The volume is truly incredible.  If I attempted to answer it all, simple math shows that I’d never have time to do the Daily, cast, travel, eat, sleep, or spend quality time with Manfred. Also I’d need a time machine.

    Regardless, the fact remains: If you were kind enough to write me, you deserve the courtesy of a response.

    This barrage of email, this patchwork quilt of voices fascinates me.  And until today, it’s been hidden away in a folder for my eyes only.  From now on I want to share it with you.

    I’d like to introduce you to you, via the lens of my inbox.

    Your stories mesmerize me.  You share your amazing triumphs in the form of StarCraft victories, aced exams, and newfound friends and lovers, all with your own snarky sense of humor.  You also share your bitter defeats—breakups, loneliness, depression, and your terror of the Battle.net ladder.  You tell me how you pick yourselves up with humor and grace and move onto the next challenge in your lives. When I’m having a bad day, your stories keep me going, too. 

    You ask me to meet up with you because you feel a personal connection.  You are backpacking through California from Sweden/Germany/Wales/Malta/New South Wales and you would like to have breakfast/lunch/dinner with me. You would like me to join you for your wedding in Las Vegas. You would like to pitch me a business idea over coffee. You would like to take me out on your boat/up in your plane/off a cliff on a rope.  You compare these other passions to StarCraft—they, too, require discipline and mastery.  

    You would like me to talk to your mother, Who Just Doesn’t Get It.

    You would like me to film a video toast to your groom, to your patrol in Afghanistan, to your little brother on his birthday, to your boyfriend for Christmas, to your cousin who has cancer, to your BarCraft buddies.  Give X a shoutout on the show.  He’s the man.  In fact, you spam all six of my email boxes with your request, hoping that by force of your sheer enthusiasm you will prove irresistible.

    You tell me Day[9] Daily #100 helped your parents understand your passion for gaming and eSports.  You tell me that you cherish your gaming childhood, that you met your best friend or wife through gaming.  You tell me you were the worst StarCraft newb ever and have achieved platinum.  You tell me how you applied the discipline and self-confidence you learned through StarCraft to other areas of your life and did something cool.  You tell me how much you love the game.  How much you love the community.  How you are never going to stop gaming.

    You also tell me how much I sweat.  Back off.  I don’t sweat that much.

    Mostly though, you write to tell me about your lifelong passion for gaming.  You ask how you can get a job in eSports or you ask me to help you jump start your own eSports business.  You ask how I did it.  How did I become Day[9]?  What is my day like?  How can you get into eSports?  How can you share your passion for StarCraft?  How can you become a pro gamer?  A caster?  A streamer?  A tournament organizer?  How can you be an active part of the generation which is building a grassroots industry from the ground up through sheer determination and passion?

    These are all excellent questions.  All questions I want to answer in detail.  To all you delightful, sincere, warmhearted emailers whom I’ve never been able to answer personally, this blog is for you.  

    In addition to musings on topics I find interesting (comics, books, electronica, etc!), I’m devoting the next few months to sharing everything I’ve learned about jumping into eSports. 

    I’m going to be asking a number of eSports leaders to join me in giving you no-bullshit advice.

    Credit: Zhang Jingna (@zemotion) - After Hours Gaming League Season 2 Finalists Epic and IBM

    For example, the Rosen Brothers of TeSPA, who organized and produced the amazing LoneStar tournament, joined us at Day[9]TV for the summer and will be writing about their experiences organizing events.  They are two of the hardest working and most natural marketing talents I know and I can’t wait to share their insights with you.  They are going to add their voices to mine, along with other folks who are successfully forging their way in eSports.

    We’re going to be showing you real event budgets, resources, checklists—all the tools I’ve collected in my file cabinet—so that you, too, can take a shot at doing the same thing.  

    I’ve found running a business to be a fascinating, exhausting, challenging experience.  A startup is the ultimate real time strategy game (where you only get one life lol dammit).  For me, it feels like a natural extension of playing StarCraft competitively.  I hope you enjoy this look behind the scenes.

    Please comment below and tell me what you think as the blog progresses. And please know that I do hear you, even if I can’t always write back.  :P