Getting Into the LoL Esports Industry

I wrote this article over a year ago, originally for RTS Guru. I've rehosted it here, as I doubt it gets much backtraffic on their site. It does look much better there though, so feel free to read the original post on their site

Originally Posted June 3rd, 2013:

Sorry for the delay in this week's blog entry, but I was a little distracted by planning for the All-Star coverage. In fact, I'm writing this while on a plane to Shanghai, where I'll have the privilage of covering the event and interviewing top players from all the major LoL eSports regions while getting paid to do so thanks to GameSpot. Two years ago this week I graduated from Long Beach State University. So how did I manage to swing this?

Hands down the most frequent question I get from LoL eSports fans is some variation of "How do I get a job in eSports?" Some ask where they can write, how they can become a journalist, how they can get content they're already working on to get community views, etc. I've been meaning to either make a vlog or write something up that I can refer people to when they ask questions like this. Maybe I'll make a video in the future. For now, here's something written.

Let me start of by explaining why I can't give you my secret formula to success - I don't have one. My current situation is a mix of luck, opportunity, persistance, passion, and hunger. When I started doing my show and creating content, there wasn't much out there and I filled an existing content void. The scene is much different than it was two years ago. It's grown a lot, so there are certainly more positions- however there are already many entrenched players/organizations and much more noise that you have to break through. /r/leagueoflegends is a good example of this situation. When I started SotL, you could pretty much get anything relevant to the front page. Now getting something new to the top 25 is much more luck based.

Really the best I can do is offer several bits of advice that you can apply as needed to your personal situation. I also want to add that you should never get into eSports with the sole intent of making it into a career. You can hope and try to turn it into a career, but for the reasons I previously explained, it's never a good idea to bet it all. Approach it like a hobby/volunteer thing that you like to do in your free time. Don't quit/stop looking for the day job. Just like Hollywood, you can't just choose to make it your career on day one.

Figure out what you can do.

This is really priority number one. What are you good at? Are you good at analyzing the game and do you have the high league score to back it up? Are you charismatic and a good talker? Are you a great writer? These are some of the more obvious traits, but there are also more subtle ones: graphic/website skils, video editing, management, marketing- eSports is an entire industry and there's a lot of different talent needed.

I've mentioned this previously, but Doublelift (embarassingly enough) was the first person to suggest that I actually do something in eSports when I told him how envious I was of his situation. I remember that the first thing he told me wasn't, "You should just try and get a job in eSports." It was, "You should use the skills from your communication degree to interview people." Even if you don't ultimately want to keep using that specific talent, try it out in the short term. You might find it more enjoyable than you thought, you'll be helping out the eSports scene by doing so, and it'll help you get connected and known.

Look for gaps in the scene.

I started State of the League because I thought the LoL eSports scene was boring compared to the StarCraft 2 scene at the time. I didn't know what any of the players were like, who to root for, why top players did what they did, etc. I felt that a show that allowed players to show their personalities by interacting with one another, all while sharing information with the community was something the scene needed and didn't have. Look at your talents/skills and think of how you can use them to help fans, industry folks, etc.

Graphic artists might looks at pro streams and feel like they need better overlays. Aspriring journalists might look at something like the Challenger scene and feel that there is a lack of coverage for it at the moment. IT/network people might want to help players and amateur tournaments DDOS proof their setup. The list goes on and on.

Reach out, be persistant, but not annoying.

It's very difficult to get anyone's attention. Industry folks are busy and the community has a flood of content to keep itself occupied on most days, but you'll need at least someone (fans, pro players, etc.) to start paying attention to you if you hope to get anywhere. Unfortunately, you have to be willing to find that fine line that exists between persistancy and annoyance. You have to convince someone that you're worth their time without bothering them so much that they just default to ignoring you.

Depending on what you want to do, you'll need to figure out who you need to reach. Once you accomplish that, think of the best way to approach them. If your first attempt doesn't yield results, try again. For industry figures, I can personally say that I accidentally blow off many of the messages I get each day because I'll get them at an inconvenient time, and then it'll slip past me. Content creators need to reach fans. As I previously mentioned, the LoL subreddit is a mess these days. It's hard to get good content up there. You should certainly try, but don't be afraid to look at other places like /r/summoners- or write for an organization site like Dignitas, CLG, TSM, or Curse properties.

Listen to the feedback, but act on it only if you agree.

This is a pretty complicated one, especially if you're a content creator. Once you start doing something, creating something, or something something, you're going to get feedback from people. A lot of this stuff is great, but a lot of it will also probably be conflicting. I was overwhelmed by the different feedback I got when I started State of the League.

Eventually you have to realize that whatever you're doing is your vision for yourself. You can't please everyone and you'll stress yourself out too much if you try to. Just listen to what people tell you, consider if you think they're right, and then iterate based on that. I can also tell you that you'll probably be able to figure out half of the improvements you need on your own. Whatever changes you're making to what you're doing or creating should feel natural and obvious once someone suggests it to you or you think of it yourself.

Don't be a dick.

This should be super obvious, right? I have seen so many people start doing decent things in League of Legends eSports (and other eSports scenes) only to be swatted back down when they act like an arrogant ass: they're rude to people, they call folks out on Twitter, or they act like they know better than anyone and don't need to bother even listening to feedback at all.

Friends of mine in the industry can tell you that if I think you have potential or are already doing something cool, and I like you, I'll do whatever I can to help you succeed. Sjokz certainly got to where she is based on her own talent, skills, and determination, but I also did everything I could to help her along the way. I think most, if not all of the frequent Whose League Is It Anyway guests would tell you the same thing about me. Likewise, a lot of people have helped me.

This seems to be a common eSports industry attitude, and the first people I met that probably exemplify it the most are the folks over at Day[9]tv. They helped me make connections and are still down to help me with anything if I need it. Management and team owners for TSM, CLG, dig, and CRS have also helped me a lot.

Likewise, if I think you're a tool and you're going to do more damage than good, I'll do whatever I can to prevent you from succeeding, as will many others. I think a lot of times people underestimate how much power one or two key voices have. It's okay to annoy people, but don't act like a prat. All of us in the industry are very proud and protective of it.

There's a lot of other random tidbits of information about the industry that I or others could tell you, but I think this covers the big points that you'll need if you're looking to get into the scene. It's not easy these days, so please don't quit your day job/school/leave your home etc. Just start small and see if you can grow it organically. Good luck!

Further Reading: