In 2020 I was on a networking call where I was called an ‘esports expert.’ The same thing happened on a podcast I had appeared on too. Those moments stayed with me, not because of ego — I have a lot to learn across the board — but because it simply didn’t sound right. Can anybody actually be an expert in an industry so vast?
Esports, as we should all know by now, is an umbrella term for a network of communities that all revolve around competitive video games. Each title has its own ecosystem, its own community, and its own set of positives and negatives. In January 2021, I made the argument that esports fans don’t exist for this very reason: the genetic make-up of the industry is so vast that it’s effectively impossible to be deeply knowledgeable about each and every aspect of it.
I believe that, much like my stance on esports fans, there are no esports experts. Before delving into the why, we need to establish a definition of the word ‘expert.’ As per the Cambridge English Dictionary, an expert is “a person with a high level of knowledge or skill relating to a particular subject or activity.”
You can classify esports as a “particular subject,” sure, but it’s multi-faceted. For competition to happen there are many factors at play: broadcast production, tournament operations, player management, organizations and sponsors, even media, along with many others. Esports is a subject, but it’s also a fully-fledged industry.
I’d certainly not try and argue that there aren’t experts in the esports industry. There are game analysts, producers, marketers, players, and dozens of other job roles that one can become highly competent in. There are undoubtedly experts in Call of Duty, in handling live streams, in getting the best out of employees. That said, there isn’t anybody who has immense knowledge across the full breadth of esports; there are not only different trades and games, but different continents, regions, and countries where such aspects can, and do, differ from others.
- Read More: Man Utd’s Ole Gunnar Solskjær enters esports
In my eyes, to have expertise in esports as a subject suggests that somebody possesses in-depth knowledge in how events are run, how organizations function from the top down, how tournament organizers interface with publishers, the laws affecting the industry, how media works, the difference between a sponsor and a partner, and other key aspects that keep the industry ticking.
I like to use the movie business as an example – it’s not a perfect like-for-like industry but it does the job. Can you be an expert in directing, producing, acting, distributing, editing, marketing, interviewing, and retail all at once? Each of these areas is a craft that one could arguably master, but to claim that an expert in even three of those fields (a rare occurrence, I’m sure) is a movie expert would be disingenuous.
I’d understand if somebody was to describe my point here as me simply being pedantic. Surely nobody is actually claiming to be an expert in all of the nuanced positions, game titles, companies, and countries that comprise the industry, right? Well, I truly believe that accuracy matters in this realm — a realm in which companies are literally being messed over by these so-called experts.
So many charlatans peddling themselves as esports experts because they have experience in "gaming." We all owned a Nintendo. Grats.
— Richard Lewis (@RLewisReports) August 7, 2016
Beyond myself uncomfortably being labeled an esports expert a handful of times over my few years of working full-time in the industry, a quick search on LinkedIn will provide you with plenty of examples of people genuinely embracing this bogus title. It’s harmless until it isn’t.
If you’re well-acquainted with executives in the esports industry then there’s a good chance you’ve heard of a horror story involving a ‘consultant’ or ‘expert’ who’s led a company down a futile path. Grifters, scam artists, charlatans – whatever you wish to call such people – position themselves as subject matter experts to swindle otherwise-uninformed entities who have heard esports is an exciting industry and want to get involved.
These snake oil salesmen often offer useless, hardly-effective advice for a fee. They take their money and are soon gone, having dished out some bulls**t with inaccurate KPIs or a ‘strategy’ that hardly warrants such a description.
What these esports experts are oftentimes doing is actually harming the industry they claim to be passionate about. Once an unfortunate, misguided company has a poor first experience dabbling in esports, they’re likely going to believe it’s fruitless and not worth their time nor money. That can result in them stopping any activity in the industry for a solid length of time – perhaps forever.
This morning I saw 'esports experts' warning their connections on Linkedin about 'fake esports experts' out there and then other supposed 'esports experts' also chiming in saying how terrible it is seeing 'esports experts' get work they shouldn't be getting….. pic.twitter.com/H31N1GcDbJ
— Nay 🌻 (@Naysayerz) April 3, 2020
I don’t suspect that every self-proclaimed “esports expert” has such malicious, selfish intentions — to do so would be to go against a lesson I’ve learnt over the years — but I believe it’s fundamentally incorrect. It actually bands those with honest intentions in with those who are looking to make a quick buck to many of us, whether they know it or not.
Industry veterans that have been around since the late ’90s understandably know more than most when it comes to esports. To stick around for so long probably means they’ve worn many hats, forging paths that require competence in multiple trades. That’s commendable and respectable, to say the least, but even then that doesn’t mean they now possess a “high level of knowledge” across the board.
Even if I was entirely wrong here and esports experts do indeed exist, there are only a small number of people even eligible to claim as such without being instantly laughed out of the room.
To those who are legitimate experts in their chosen field, whether that be production or player management, you’re great. We need as many of you as we can get, frankly. Industry figures dislike those who enter fresh from other sectors who act like they know esports better than anybody else, but nobody I’m aware of is unwelcoming to those with expertise from elsewhere that are keen to learn what this industry is about.
Will this piece result in people labeling themselves more accurately professionally? Probably not, though I believe that’s in their best interest. Will it prevent companies from being scammed? There’s a chance — a slim one, but a chance nonetheless. Does the esports industry stand to gain from constructive conversation around this topic? Whether I’m right or wrong in the eyes of the majority, I think so.