So this was the big news yesterday in the gaming world. The tl;dr is a company decided to make an exam for esports jobs similar to other post-grad exams like the CPA for accountants, the BAR for lawyers, and the FE for engineers. Their goal is to make it easier for talent like journalists, producers, writers, casters, etc. to get into the industry and for companies to know their applicants know their shit.
The main issue? The exam is fucking dumb and literally no one in the industry approves of this new certification.
And I agree with all of them: a $400 standardized esports test does literally nothing to help the company looking for talent and would be more of a financial gatekeep for wannabe esports employees than anything. Esports is way too broad of a career field to narrow down to a 400 or even 1000 question exam.
For example, let’s say I’m an editor-in-chief and I’m looking to improve my Rocket League coverage and decides to look for a new writer to add to the team. What would I be looking for? Well, first I want someone that has written articles before, preferably something similar to my site’s journalistic tone (lol). I also would prefer someone with knowledge of not only the rules, mechanics, and terminology of RL but also the history of the esport (players on each roster, best all-time moments, rivalries, etc). And finally, I’d want someone that has a good work ethic and is always on top of breaking news and matchup results.
So how much of that will be covered in a generic esports certification exam? Like maybe 2 pop quiz-style questions about Rocket League rules and terms? How does that help me fill my needs?
The answer? It doesn’t. And that’s why this is a dumb idea. But you know what’s also dumb?
The current path to an esports career.
I’m not talking about people trying to become esports pros or content creators. I’m talking about careers like casting and reporting for IGN or Dexerto, content production for brands like 100T or NRG, or even writing and editing for the actual sports organizations like the League Championship Series or Call of Duty League.
Getting jobs in these fields is like searching for a hidden treasure in a temple that’s underwater and on a planet 12 light-years away. It’s one of the hardest journeys out there in the career field and it’s due to a giant gap between the applicants and the companies looking for new talent.
Let’s take the previous example for instance: I’m looking for a Rocket League reporter for my company. I’m looking for someone that knows their shit, not a PartyChat fanboy or a Rocket League fanboy that has never written or edited a video before in his life. Unfortunately, those are the majority of the applications I receive and after looking through the 100th straight fanboy message begging to join my company I start to feel like I’m wasting my time with this process.
So I turn to what most people are calling “gatekeeping”: I start asking around to my friends in the industry to see if they have someone they would recommend and I start browsing Rocket League content creators to see if anyone would fit my need.
Now let’s flip the roles: I’m trying to apply for a job in Rocket League esports as a journalist and I keep getting rejected by companies for full-time positions due to my lack of experience. What are my options?
Well, you could start your own website and cover things on your own to build your portfolio. That’s what got me in the door with Barstool last year. However, you don’t have any mentorship, no editor, no website designer; basically, you’re hoping that by writing over time that you’ll develop on your own or you’re already good enough and just need some sample articles.
You could go further down that road and just make your own company, which an even harder road to go down because now you have to figure EVERYTHING out.
And finally, you could apply for an internship at an esports company or games media site. They are often unpaid or minimum wage positions, sometimes require relocation, and you’re still going to do the same amount of work as a full-time employee except without any guarantee that you will get hired at the end. Oh, and you’re also competing with the other 1000+ applicants for that position, so you may not even get the internship to begin with.
Can you see the issue? Esports orgs and companies don’t have a good way to filter through the thousands of fans that apply with no relevant experience so they turn to colleagues and content creators. Aspiring employees often can’t spend their entire life for these internships that have no guarantee they will ever pay off, and so they turn into…content creators, and now they’re being judged against people that are very good at the aspects of content creation that they had no desire to do in the first place (marketing, streaming, on-camera work, etc).
I know I’m generalizing a lot of this and there may be some companies that don’t have this issue and some employees that didn’t have to take these routes to get hired. And like I’ve said before, esports is one of the most wanted and competitive career paths that you can pursue, so it’s going to be a road that will require some sacrifices to make it. I myself worked for 10 months for a company for free with very little credit for my work and I didn’t even get the job. It’s the way some of this stuff works when you’re going up against thousands of others that want it just as bad as you do.
But it’s also not 2010 anymore. Esports isn’t being played in the conference rooms of the Marriot; they’re in stadiums being streamed to millions of fans around the world. Interns shouldn’t be busting their ass all day trying to prove they’re worth a hire while also flipping Big Macs at night just to be able to eat.
The esports certification exam is definitely not the solution, but don’t let all the jokes and memes divert you from realizing there is a bigger issue here that needs to be solved.