As competitive gaming continues to grow, insiders are confronting a common problem: The pipeline for new hires is neither easily navigated nor particularly diverse.
Hiring in esports is almost always about who you know. That’s true to varying degrees in many industries, but especially true in the relatively homogeneous world of competitive gaming, for which there are few college courses, a fragmented structure and just a small group of people with more than a decade’s experience.
Last week Activision-Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick donated $4 million to the University of Michigan to jumpstart its esport curriculum, partially because there “wasn’t enough talent being specifically developed” for the industry. Tuesday, a group of esports veterans launched a certification program that is hoping to promote meritocracy, diversity and professionalism in the industry, particularly for entry-level positions.
The Esports Certification Institute will issue an online exam, at a cost of $400, to anyone looking to break into competitive gaming. ECI was founded by Sebastian Park, former VP of esports for the Houston Rockets, and Ryan Friedman, former chief of staff for gaming organization Dignitas. Its advisory board includes executives from across the industry, including venture capital fund Bitkraft, law firm ESG Law, and organizations like Cloud 9 and Gen.G.
“One of the biggest problems we have in esports is that there just aren’t very many ways for job candidates to explicitly show that they’re good at what they do, that they have the skills necessary to excel in the space,” Park said in an interview. “Esports has a lot of built-in desire for bringing in good people in a meritocratic way, but there aren’t a lot of good systems to execute on that.”
The ECI’s main product is the exam and certification, a less intense version of the certification process for financial professionals (CFA) or HR roles (TMP). The exams, the first of which will be done in June, will feature multiple choice questions and an essay across three main areas: esports knowledge, problem solving and statistics. Those who pass the exam will receive certification, plus access to a membership program that includes networking, discussions with ECI advisers and other career advancement opportunities.
The group is actively talking to universities and other educational institutions about providing fee waivers to people who need financial help, and will make its study materials available via a pay-what-you-want model. The $400 price tag came after a lot of market research into other skill-specific certifications, Park said. The CFA exam, for example, can cost around $1,000 and the TMP exam package is $625. Others in IT and data processing cost a little less.
“Even though we’re on the low end there, we want to make sure that if it’s out of your price range, or you don’t have the level of financial support to pay it, we’re in a position to give away some of these certifications,” he said.