It was 2003 when DOTA (Defence of the Ancients), the first true Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA), hit the shelves of PC gaming. Since then, esports have been on a constant and steady rise, leading to widespread popularisation for a new kind of competitive gaming and giving birth to a whole new category of Internet celebrities.
Sometimes known by their names, most often by their nicknames (Faker, N0tail, JerAx etc.), professional esports players can bring home millions of dollars in prize pools and they can easily make a professional career out of their expertise in one game or another. The Fortnite World Cup Finals 2019, for instance, had a prize pool of $15.1m. Which are still rookie numbers to Dota 2, with its pool prize of over $34m in The International 2019 tournament.
Esports are so strong and popular right now, especially thanks to the rise of Twitch, that the discipline has been given its own place in the Olympic Games. Yet few will know that this multi-million dollar industry is built on a number of different mechanisms all falling into piece, proper departments made of coaches, agents, broadcasters, event managers and other roles acting as the backbone of the industry. If pro gamers are often seen as the face of the sector, creatives are what holds it together and prevents it from falling apart.
There are a number of creative careers and jobs available in the esports sector. If you are considering entering the industry with your expertise, here’s a list of the most popular ones!
Best creative jobs in esports
From community manager to content creator, creative professionals in esports can truly embrace a number of different specialisations, depending on their personal interest and what they are looking to achieve. Being esports a branch of the gaming industry, salaries are usually more than decent and they will often reflect other jobs in the advertising industry.
The British Esports Association offers a comprehensive list of all the available jobs in esports. Here are the most relevant to us.
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Have you ever taken a stroll around Twitch to see a few esports broadcasters and players? Who do you think makes those nifty graphics and overlays?
Esports teams and players will need to have very strong brands to stand out in a fierce and competitive sector. Esports Graphic Designers, and especially freelancers, are often employed to create designs in accordance with a specific team or player's brand. Graphic designers who specialise in esports can work on anything, including branding, Twitch emotes, UI/UX for landing pages, subscriber badges for Twitch, stream overlays and more.
Esports design is usually bright, colourful, saturated and visually aggressive. It is often futuristic with sci-fi or cyberpunk undertones, designed to fit with a specific team or player’s personality. Cool colours are widely popular, but it doesn’t mean that warmer identities don’t have a space in the sector. They’re just a bit more unusual.
Graphic designers in esports can expect to earn just as much as in any other sector, with an average of £22k-£25k/year for juniors and way heftier earnings for experienced freelancers.
It goes without saying that, where there’s a show, there’s a producer. Esports Producers are the ones responsible for making sure that the show happens and is the most exciting thing ever. They help with writing the script, spot the best commentators, plan the broadcasts and ensure that everything goes according to plan.
Producers can work in a freelance fashion, but game developers are increasingly interested in hiring esports producers to put up some interesting shows for their games. Epic Games, parent of Fortnite, is a great example, but Blizzard is constantly looking for new talent too. Maybe wait until the California lawsuit is cleared, though.
Esports Producers are highly skilled in a number of ways, but most importantly they are among the most organised individuals on this planet. They should have a passion for esports games, know the sector, and have some fundamental event management skills. Problem-solving is equally important.
Esports Producers in the UK can expect an average salary of £40k per year. This is not including more senior positions or freelance opportunities, for which the salary goes way up.
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Someone will need help from a skilled professional to capture the best moments from an event – or match. This is where Esports Photographers, Videographers and Editors come in.
While a handful will be hired in-house, you can expect most of these professionals to work freelance, producing photographic and video content to highlight the best moments of a great esports event. Interviews will have to be filmed, sports teams will need promo videos, and sponsors will need to be cuddled and showcased through content and partnerships.
Sometimes this role overlaps with the one of the journalist and content creator, but other times it won’t; photographers will be required to capture the excitement of fans, players and teams as it happens, to then spread that excitement beyond the mere enclosures of the event itself.
A specialised freelance video editor can earn an average of £40k per year, with the top 10% reaching upwards of £70k. Freelance photographers/videographers in the UK will notably have a hard time getting by, but the most skilled professionals may earn up to £30k per year – possibly with extras, if colouring and retouching are thrown into the mix.
Of course, esports teams and sometimes even the most popular players will need a PR team to manage their communications. This is where PR Officers and Executives come in. They manage the flow of information to the public and can often work in-house or with an external agency.
PRs in esports will work closely with journalists and publications to ensure the exposure of the player or team is maximised ahead of an important game, or with a relevant announcement. Freelance Esports PR professionals can also specialise in the gaming scene to provide maximum exposure for esports clients. One agency specialising in the gaming industry is Indigo Pearl.
In this specific time and age, marketers in the esports scene will usually be required to target young adults in the 18-24 or 25-30 demographics. As the average age for gaming goes up with new generations, that demographic will of course shift and expand.
Esports PR professionals should be ready to face the odd crisis, work to tight deadlines and follow events closely, sometimes working outside office hours to help the team. A PR professional should be organised, able to think quickly and have excellent communication and writing skills. Diplomacy is also a plus.
Depending on the size of the company, salaries will reflect what one can already find in the creative and advertising industries. PR Assistants may start around £18k-£22k, with senior professionals earning anything from £40k to more than £100k – in the biggest companies and organisations, of course.
With the esports scene rotating around events, it makes sense that Event Managers are part of the picture. Competitive gaming shines in the realm of physical events, with bright colourful displays, huge screens and gigantic crowds coming together to watch their favourite players in the field.
An Esports Event Manager will have a role similar to the one of a Producer, but more focused on organising the event itself. They will often work with different teams and departments, from art to PR and communications, and they will juggle multiple stakeholders, including partnerships and sponsors. Often, Esports Event Managers will have to conceive the events themselves, coming up with ideas to ensure the show is the best it can be.
Esports Event Managers will of course be required to be highly organised and able to deal with multiple tasks at once. Because Event Managers work on site too, possessing technical skills will be an advantage, as they will be able to pinpoint an issue and resolve it as quickly as possible. A strong knowledge of the gaming industry and its demographics is a must for the role.
Esports Event Managers will often organise the year’s events during office hours, but they will be required to attend them too, usually outside the 9-to-5 range and often in the evenings or weekends. With that said, Event Managers will also often have a range of benefits, such as a system to convert overtime into holidays or unlimited time off. Salaries can vary, but they can range from the average of £20k to around £30k, depending on the company.
Freelance Esports Event Managers may earn much more, with top event professionals usually operating in the range of £50k-£80k – though this is a figure that applies to general events, rather than specifically to esports. Freelance professionals working in events may want to dedicate a portion of their freelance business to esports, possibly compensating the earnings with other less specific events – or upskill to become an Esports Producer.
Esports Community Manager
Esports players have the tendency to gather communities around their endeavours. Twitch subscribers will have benefits, there will usually be a Discord server, forums and Reddit may get out of hand fast. All this requires a specialised Community Manager to handle it all.
Contrary to PR and Marketing Executives, Community Managers are immersed in the community itself. They don’t necessarily work with publications or other gatekeepers, rather organise and set up ways to keep the existing team or player’s community engaged. They may have to handle social media, respond to queries, curate content, set up giveaways and more to ensure that the sentiment around the brand is always positive.
Esports Community Managers will sometimes work alongside sales/partnerships, product management and PR and marketing. They will write content, conduct interviews and post on social media to keep engagement up. It is a people-faced role, meaning that diplomacy and customer care are essential skills to ensure that the community is always looked after in the best of ways.
In general, Community Managers are always in touch with the needs and desires of the community and have a first-hand experience of fans’ instant reactions. Marketing and communications skills or qualifications are usually an advantage to get into this role.
Community Managers are most often employed in-house, as they need to work closely with the team to make sure the community is always looked after. It is a much more standard 9-to-5 role most of the times, though event attendance may be required in some cases. Juniors may start around £20k a year, while senior professionals can expect to earn between £35k and £40k or above. The average salary is usually around the £30k mark.
Writers will also find their place easily in the esports sector. As the industry grows, Esports Journalists and Content Creators are increasingly requested to cover a more interested and informed readership. As with any journalistic position, writers in the esports scene will be required to develop relationships and build a network of contacts in the industry, whilst writing news stories, features, opinions and analysis on the current trends in esports.
Esports Journalists are just as concerned about the truth as in any other sector. As internal issues arise within a team, or scandals explode around a certain part of the industry, the most skilled journalists will feel the need to write reports and conduct interviews to look into the issue, sometimes at the risk of undermining their own relationships with certain contacts in the industry.
Being an Esports Journalist isn’t as easy as sitting down and bashing in a few lines. There is a code of conduct to follow, journalistic standards to observe, and these professionals will always be required to fact-check their claims before writing a story. Journalists are just as skilled in writing as they are in researching a story or source.
Many will tell you that journalism is a shrinking industry – and they wouldn’t be too far from the truth. Salaries can start with as little as £20k a year or less, but experienced editors and freelancers can easily earn more than £40k a year. Freelancers especially can charge up to £300+ for lengthy and in-depth articles on esports, though this is usually the case of wider mainstream publications. Niche esports websites will hardly have the budget to afford a pricey freelancer.
Esports Content Creator
On the other hand, Content Creators will be less focused on news and the truth, and more on the entertainment side of the industry. They will be hired to produce video or written content to grow brand awareness, attract a certain audience or expand the reach of the team on YouTube and Twitch. Content Creators are often freelancers in every respect, generating revenues through subscriber fees and donations as they publish or stream their content online. It is hard to cut through the noise – but many do, and many are successful enough to make a living out of it. It is also an incredibly creative job.
Being a Content Creator will require a great deal of extroversion and a capacity to entertain a huge crowd. For the most successful streamers, even a two-hour stream can be tiring – and two hours are the bare minimum, in Twitch’s most recent standards. Streamers and Content Creators will hardly have a team to help them manage the community, but they can often rely on a few voluntary (or paid) moderators and admins in their communities and channels.
Earnings for Content Creators, of course, vary in huge amounts. Some will earn just enough to get through the month, but the most successful ones will have dedicated communities sending them huge donations, dozens of thousands of subscriptions and a coherent, comprehensive presence across most channels. Sponsors may want to start partnerships with you (energy drinks, VPNs, even game publishers) and pay you for sponsored content. It is quite hard to pinpoint a specific salary, but some popular League of Legends streamers can earn more than £100,000 per year with Twitch donations alone. The most popular streamers, such as PewDiePie, are self-made millionaires.
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Esports Professional Gamer
Finally, there’s the Pro Players themselves. In esports, Professional Gamers are usually part of a team and will compete in tournaments for prize money. They will often start in the lower rankings or as amateurs before catching the attention of larger teams.
Though not a creative profession or career in and of itself, playing games can still stimulate your creativity somehow. You are not creating anything per se, but you are finding always new strategies and solutions to get to the top. You are a disciplined individual working to improve your performance over and over again, climbing the ranks and learning the ins and outs of any specific game.
Esports Pro Gamers will spend hours and hours of their days perfecting their performances on any given game of their choice. They will usually specialise on only one game, be it a shooter like CounterStrike: Global Offensive or a strategy game such as Dota 2. Different games require different skills and are made to adapt to different kinds of gamers. If you don’t like first person shooters with quick reflexes, you may not be the best fit for CounterStrike, for instance.
Esports Pro Gamers will know everything about a game. They will know hitboxes, exploits, strategies, loopholes in the game code and will often dig within the darkest realms of a game’s community to find new ways to excel in their game. It is more than muscle memory: it’s dedication, strategy, study and much more. Because of this, only a very select elite makes it to the top.
Just like most athletes in the world, pay is where things get interesting. Because being a pro gamer requires years of practice and dedication, salaries are huge. The world’s most popular and skilled players can earn millions of dollars in prize pots. Hundreds of thousands of pounds may be earned by the top tier esports players, with wages dropping between £20k and £80k a year below the Tier-2 players.
However, becoming a professional player will be mentally and physically challenging for any passionate gamer out there. Some players will put over 10 hours of practice into their favoured game every day. On the other hand, retirement age is usually very young, ranging between the mid to late twenties. This means it is important to stay fit, healthy and keep a balanced lifestyle as much as possible to avoid burnout – or worse.
The opportunities in Professional Esports
The realm of esports is growing, and with the recent inclusion of the sector in the Olympic Games, things can only move upwards from here. Professional gamers are dedicated players devolving much of their life to their profession, and because of this, they will need a huge team to help them succeed.
As esports grow, so will the professions dedicated to helping players and teams succeed in their specialty. Creative professionals will work at the intersection between the players and the public – supporting them with every means possible and helping them reach the top with their creative expertise.