The business of esports, while fresh and exciting for many in the games industry, also comes with a lot of risks, unexpected costs, and surprising developments. Fortunately, at this year’s Game Developers Conference, there’s going to be a whole day dedicated to solutions for those in the business of electronic athleticism.
Lurking in the shadows of this event will be Riot Games game designer Patrick Miller, who has organized a day full useful and exciting talks about the topic of esports. For your benefit, we’ve reached out to him to pick his brain about practical ways to talk about the business and design of esports, and find out what attendees can expect from this event.
Tell us about yourself and what you do in the games industry.
My name is Patrick Miller (@pattheflip); I used to be the editor-in-chief of Game Developer Magazine (RIP) and now I’m a Game Designer at Riot Games. (I also wrote a book introducing fundamental fighting game concepts to new players called From Masher to Master, which you can download for free.)
What inspired you to pursue your career?
I’ve always wanted to make video games! So it wasn’t ever really a choice that required inspiration. That said, my GDMag EIC predecessor Brandon Sheffield (@necrosofty) was a huge help in showing me how the biz worked and how to get in.
Without spoiling it too much, tell us what people can expect from the Esports Day?
For the past couple years, Esports at GDC has focused on growing the scene in terms of numbers — bigger playerbases, bigger prize pools, bigger events in bigger venues, bigger viewer counts. This year I’ve invited speakers who are passionate about enriching esports and making them more meaningful in ways that aren’t as easily counted. Events in traditional sports are matters of international significance; I want to know what it’ll take to get esports there, too.
What are some of the biggest challenges you face in the esports community?
From my perspective, there are a few things that continue to come up a lot — so if anyone’s interested in pitching for next year’s Esports talks, here are a few topics to consider 😉
Tools and tips for building smaller esports communities (i.e. not following the Riot/Valve/Blizzard playbook)
Building a competitive community around your game that is fierce, supportive, and inclusive (particularly with regards to gender, race, and sexuality)
Typical young athlete management + marketing stuff, with the additional challenge of navigating nation + language barriers
People yelling about video games not being sports whenever ESPN shows a video game on it (just kidding, this is still funny to me and I hope it never stops)
What are the most rewarding parts of your job?
Playing stuff in various stages of development and marveling over how any game gets shipped, ever.
Do you have any advice for those aspiring to join your field someday?
I do! And I gave a talk about it in the GDC Game Career Seminar in 2016. So go watch it.
What do you think developers need to be looking for when they attend GDC with esports development in mind?
Trends and techniques come and go; maybe a talk’s takeaways are useful to you, maybe not. But pay attention to who is solving the kinds of problems you think you’ll need solved, and who’s focused on chasing the value you want for your own work, because someday you might want them on your team.
Do you have any thoughts on how building an esports fanbase differs from traditional game marketing?
Traditional game marketing is a one-night stand; esports is a long-term relationship. Doing one to get the other doesn’t work that well.