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What does it mean to be a professional in eSports?

Now that eSports has grown and become part of the lives of many people, both gamers and non-gamers, I think it is about time that we begin to see more professionalism in the sport. While 2013 has been great when it comes to the number of events, size of audiences, massive prize pools and the globalization of eSports, there is still for improvement. I recognise that this topic has been talked to the death, so I intend this article to be relatively short and informative. Addressing the main issues that I believe are core for the eSports to be recognised as a professional entity. What’s professionalism anyway? Why can't I just be myself? Professionalism is often defined by many in the eSports industry as, "behaving well to earn more money". In my opinion, this is the worst possible attitude to have. Professionalism is the adhesive that holds everything together, it is the driving force behind the growth and development of gaming and should be acknowledged by all who wish to pave their way towards a career in eSports. From the perspective of an organisation owner, there are a number of things that need to be noted before they will affiliate their brand with any eSports team (or person). They will need to take into account the reliability of a team, the individuals within it, and their public conduct. The fact that players with poor public image can damage your brand forever is the sad truth that organisation leaders must respect, if they wish to maintain a reputable status within the community. Similar to life outside of gaming, people generally don't want to be associated with others who will say or do whatever they please because it looks bad on them. For the reasons stated above, decision makers with organisations also think this way. A more recent example showing the product of consistent unprofessionalism is the story of former EG SC2 player, IdrA. Due to his poor conduct online, management at EG were forced to show him the door (even after three years with the organisation!). With this in mind, it is important to stress that a professional manner must be maintained on any public platform; one line of text can destroy your career. Personal restraint is important and should be learned, even if you are provoked. The most helpful advice is to take a step away from your computer, clear your head, and respond to criticism afterwards when you can address the comment fully whilst maintaining a calm professional manner. It is all too easy to allow your passion to spill over into something toxic. Often, the retaliation of the community is a hunt for blood, it is not worth the satisfaction you may get from biting back. What steps do I take to be taken seriously by sponsors? An eternal question. I like to think of it this way, sponsorships are a two-way street; you need to invest as much time and energy as you want to get out it. Money isn't everything, hard work and dedication trump a large bank account any day. I've met my fair share of fools in the industry and I can safely say that throwing money around is a short term solution to a long term problem. Adding to that, a plethora of short term sponsors is definitely going to raise some eyebrows and could inhibit future business partnerships. Put yourself in the investors shoes. Who wants to sponsor someone that’s had several unstable partnerships? Are we investing in a money sink? What happened to the other sponsorship deals? I have a few pointers that always give me a place to start when dealing with sponsors: Who is the sponsor? What is their market?
How can we help them? (Is our demographic appropriate?)
How can they help us?
How do I deal with inexperienced persons? A tough one. My opinion is that education and responsibility are key in the current eSports world. Everyone involved in eSports must take the responsibility for the impact that their actions have on other people. It is of utmost importance that individuals recognise their limits, there is nothing wrong about asking for help; especially when your decisions will have an impact on others. Often there are times were you meet individuals who are too arrogant to recognise their downfalls, they may be in a position that's far beyond their competency. I've been in the industry long enough to say that time will serve you well (patience is a virtue). Just Remember to maintain your professional standards and you will soon rise above them, their lack of ability will soon become apparent to everyone else. Now, recognising ones limits is all well and good, but it's up to the organisations to help empower and develop their staff. They should provide educational guidance for: management, players and other staff members alike. Developing the people around you will improve their service to your business and ultimately; the eSports community. However, it is important to note that there are people out there who think that 'knowledge is power'. These people will attempt to hold their knowledge out of your reach so that they will remain ahead of you. Unfortunately, you'll always run into toxic individuals, but you should remember that if you do not share your know how (regardless of how you are treated) you will never develop either. You will become indispensable, a goal for some, but for those of you who want to move up the ranks, keep in mind that because nobody else has the skills to do what you do, you will remain fixed in your current position. Knowledge needs to be imparted onto others. Creating a knowledge culture within companies is extremely important. Nowadays people don't tend to stay in the same position forever. When someone walks out the door, their knowledge walks out with them. This will leave a gaping hole in any management team and could spell disaster for any up and coming organisation. Encourage people to share their knowledge!



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