Adam Fitch: Esports has a hustle problem

Published: 12/Feb/2021 17:46

by Adam Fitch


If you want to make it in esports then you have to ditch your family and friends, stop showering, not even think about getting more than four hours of sleep, and sell your belongings to invest every penny you have into your passion.

Or so that’s the message a lot of people in esports are sending out to impressionable and aspiring young people. Esports is a nascent industry. One that’s developed at a fast pace, partly because of money being pumped into the scene from venture capitalists. Back in 2003, for example, money was low and grinding was almost essential — if you wanted to work in esports then you had to forgo the idea of being paid equivalent to your ability and output. You had to really love it to make something of yourself.

In 2021, though, esports is largely kept afloat by outside capital. Both from firms who are looking for a return on major investment and from companies who are spending significant amounts to get in front of the young, segmented, and enthusiastic audiences that we command through sponsorship. This means that the industry has been able to become increasingly professional in a short space of time. Now companies with millions of dollars in backing are common and they can afford to pay people for their time and services.

The overwhelming message sent out to those looking to become an industry professional, from the old guard and relative newcomers alike, is that hustle is necessary. You have to work 24/7 to separate yourself from the pack and to make it in this entertainment sector. This isn’t healthy.

Dignitas LCS roster
Dignitas came under fire on February 12 for posting what many deem to be an exploitative internship.

Let me caveat this column by saying that I’m not referring to entrepreneurialism here. Yes, there’s typically an element of sacrifice — time-wise or financially, probably both — that’s required to make it when you start your own venture. Entrepreneurs have similar struggles and paths across most industries; more power to those who feel strongly enough about an idea to try and make it a success. That’s not what I’m referring to here. I’m thinking of those who want a job (or a better yet, a career) in esports.

There’s a clip of OpTic Gaming founder Hector ‘H3CZ’ Rodriguez that surfaces every few months on Twitter. “There’s no hours in esports and gaming if you want to make it. It is a 24/7 job that does not sleep, and the only way to succeed and make a living off of this is if you give it your goddamn all,” he says.

This is not the message we should be sending to teenagers who find esports fascinating and believe they want to work in the industry. There’s money in esports now. Our ecosystem is like many others in that you can work eight hours a day, five days a week, and make a stable living. You can provide plenty of valuable work throughout 40 hours in a week.

In a lot of cases, especially working for an organization with significant backing like Dignitas, companies can afford to pay you for your services. Dignitas are looking to exploit somebody, it’s that simple.

If these entities are scraping by day-to-day, barely making a profit despite having millions poured into them, then that’s their own problem. It doesn’t mean innocent, enthusiastic young people should be forced to work ungodly hours on zero salary just because they’ve been told it’s the only way to break into esports. That narrative is, frankly, bullshit.

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I used to be one of those people who worked anywhere for 16 to 18 hours a day. I thought it was the only method of being productive and creating great things. That was until it caught up with me. Not only was I mentally exhausted, I had ignored other aspects of my life — my family, my friends, my health, and my personal interests. This is anecdotal, sure, but I’m just one of thousands of people who have opened up about the very real effects of ‘grinding’ over the past few years.

You’re actually likely to be more productive by taking adequate time to rest. To think. To strategize. To socialize. It’s all too easy to become infatuated with ‘hustling,’ especially when legendary esports figures are saying it’s the only way to make something of yourself. You’ll maybe become disenfranchised and start to question things. You’ll definitely lose some focus if you’re opting to only sleep a couple of hours per night.

If you want to put your best foot forward, you’re better off giving yourself the rest you need, taking some time away to assess how you’re performing and the standard of your output, and getting inspiration from sources external to your job and industry. You know, like you can do in effectively any other industry where it isn’t an issue.

I’m not saying there’s a right or wrong way to go about working in the esports industry. No two paths are the same. Some people, especially over a decade ago, needed to make gambles to prove their worth and secure enough income to make esports a full-time gig. Now, with esports wearing its grown-up pants and already paying tens of thousands of people, it’s possible to make it without putting every other aspect of your life on hold.

Please don’t think working incessantly is the only way you’ll make it. Doing a great job is good enough in most cases. Care about what you do, remember you’re lucky to work in an industry that excites you every single day but don’t let it take over your life and become detrimental. That’s not where esports is at anymore.

I’m a proponent of hard work being integral to success, however you define it You should focus on what you want to achieve and chase after it, but I’d recommend doing so healthily. Long-term, it’ll pay off in dividends.


Adam Fitch: The true tragedy of North’s closure

Published: 5/Feb/2021 23:28

by Adam Fitch


In the early hours of February 5, it was announced that Danish esports organization North have ceased operations — a stark reminder that endless investment isn’t a sustainable business operation.

Parken Sport & Entertainment, the parent company of F.C. Copenhagen, and Nordisk film founded North in January 2017 as they picked up a successful Counter-Strike: Global Offensive roster. They quickly made a name for themselves, especially in the Nordics, as a contender to the likes of Astralis.

The brainchild of a football club and a media company, the organization was primed for nothing but success. If you look at the genetic makeup of a successful current-day team, you’ll understand why. Let’s take FaZe Clan and 100 Thieves as examples.

Both North American organizations are known for competing, whether that’s in Call of Duty or CS:GO, but a lot of the attention that comes their way is generated by content. They each have a solid roster of creators and influencers that bring eyeballs to the brand, which then is also represented on the biggest stages across many of the premier titles.

North FIFA eSuperliga victory
North’s FIFA players, who have won twice in the eSuperliga, will now represent F.C. Copenhagen.

Parken Sport & Entertainment and Nordisk Film, in theory, have the experience and know-how in their respective fields to replicate the model utilized by the two organizations I’ve mentioned. I don’t think it’s a lack of resources that meant they never quite got there, either. North did indeed have some success in the server, it’s the media side of the equation that faltered.

The brand felt pretty empty, and that was somewhat acknowledged by those behind it when they felt the need to entirely change their ethos and visual identity. In early 2020, they unveiled changes that they believed would propel them into a better market position — unfortunately, the new branding fell flat. Dexerto’s own Richard Lewis did an immaculate job explaining why that was the case.

While the official announcement for North’s closure places a lot of responsibility on the global health situation for their demise, it seems more like mismanagement. New management took over in October 2019 and it only really felt like they hit their stride in the past couple of months, potentially setting themselves up for future prosperity. Today’s untimely news proves that it was too little, too late.

The co-founding entities tried to find investors to keep the organization afloat for the foreseeable future but failed in their search, according to their announcement. Now, why could that be? Either the terms of the potential cash injection were unreasonable or everybody they courted deemed North to be unworthy of a gamble — in a world where esports is more hyped in the mainstream than ever after an unusual 2020, this again suggests to me one thing: Mismanagement.

North cajunb playing
North’s recently-finalized CS:GO line-up are now forced to hunt for a new home.

I heard from a couple of sources that those involved with the project only knew of the organization’s impending closure just two hours or so before it was made public. This, alongside a couple of tweets recently published about future content, suggests that the decision was made last-minute. They left things too late, exhausted their options, and failed to make things happen.

Whether this was indeed a case of blatant mismanagement or travel restrictions truly was to blame for their demise, the case of North is a mark against those who claim that the health situation was a net positive for the esports industry.

I wrote about this in a previous column; there are so many roles in our industry rendered unperformable with the absence of events. It’s a damn shame. It almost invalidates their misfortunes when snake oil salesmen run around exclaiming that esports will now go mainstream because of perfect, unbelievable, amazing 2020 filled with nothing but growth.

Regardless, the point of this week’s musing isn’t to point fingers and blame people. North had the foundations for monumental growth and success and failed to reach that point, sure, but right now there are players and supporting staff who have just had the rug pulled from under them. When you think of the effects of 2020 on esports, it’s worth noting instances like this alongside the viewership metrics you’re showing off to people. I hope everybody lands on their feet and this serves as a stark reminder that vast financial backing isn’t the golden ticket to profit.