It’s a refrain many gamers have likely heard once or twice after a few too many hours spent in front of a screen: “It’s not like you can make a career out of playing video games.” There may have been a time when this was true, but that’s far from reality now. Having exploded in the last decade, esports is now a $1.4 billion industry with an audience of half a billion, according to research firm Newzoo — and it’s just getting started.
That means there’s an array of career opportunities to be found, from flashier, front-facing roles (pro gamers, coaches, the casters and analysts who discuss gameplay during tournaments) to less glam but still essential roles — marketers, event producers, camera operators, and so much more — that need to be filled as the industry grows and looks to cement its place. And you don’t need to be an expert or have years of gaming experience to land one of these roles, either.
“We need people who can do their jobs, bring information, different ideas and think in a big-picture way,” said Kayci Evans, global director of brand marketing for Evil Geniuses, during Thursday’s R29 Twitch stream. “We can teach you esports, we can teach you gaming. The biggest thing is to just apply and know that there’s a place for you. This industry needs great brains.”
Evans would know. She started her career working for the MLB before transitioning to esports earlier this year, she told R29 Twitch host and Entertainment Director Melissah Yang during the discussion. The key, she said, is knowing how to tailor your resume and pitch yourself for a position drawing upon your past experiences, no matter how unrelated to gaming they may be.
Naz Aletaha, global head of League of Legends Esports at Riot Games, agrees. She joined the publisher in 2012 and has been instrumental in establishing its League of Legends Esports division behind the scenes, helping secure major partnerships with brands like Mastercard and Louis Vuitton, which helped legitimize the space as a viable market. For her, it’s all about staying curious and committing yourself to the community. “We stand to gain from people bringing their knowledge and expertise to us,” Aletaha said, calling in from the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden during the middle of the biggest event of her year: Worlds. “The most important piece to make that transition is to really immerse yourself in the esports space. It’s hard to make an impact if you don’t understand your audience or what their needs are.”
How can you do that? It starts with a ton of research, according to Aletaha. Read about the industry, find out who the people working away from the cameras are, and try to connect with them in order to understand the scope of the work that goes on. And remember, because the industry is still so new, the playbook hasn’t been fully written. You can find a way to focus on your unique skill set and forge your own path.
That’s what Call of Duty analyst Alyssa Parker, a.k.a. Allycxt, did. A lifelong casual gamer, the 22-year-old didn’t even realize esports was a thing until her senior year of high school. In 2019, she decided to try competing. She lost, but captured the attention of streamers on the sidelines who invited her for an interview. That went significantly better — so much so that they asked her to come back anytime. Parker thought they were just being polite, but her parents urged her to take advantage of the offer. That eventually opened doors for her to become a caster, and later Call of Duty League’s first woman analyst.
Parker shared some practical advice for those looking to break into esports: find videos from people working behind the scenes who share valuable insight into the industry, build up a social media presence (especially on Twitter, where the esports community is very active) and, if you’re hoping for an on-camera job, volunteer to cast for rec leagues so you can create a reel for yourself that will showcase your talents.
But, perhaps the most important thing you can do, is be ready and open to taking advantage of opportunities when they arise. “You’re given opportunities all the time, it really is about how you utilize them,” Parker said. “You can be given a key and be satisfied with that key, or you can take that key and push it a step further, continue to work and turn that key into a house or a mansion. You can continue to push an opportunity that was given to you and give yourself more opportunities, and at that point they’re not opportunities, they’re things you’ve worked for.”