Game on: Esports explained
Competitive video gaming is slowly finding itself in the spotlight in Australia. Otherwise known as esports, the industry has grown rapidly over the last few years.
According to research firm Newzoo, there was an estimated global audience of 385 million people who tuned in to watch video game players compete over 2017. For those who may not be aware, esports is competitive video gaming, or basically video games combined with sports. This is an industry estimated to be worth close to $700 million a year where players join teams, live in group houses, are paid salaries, train, and compete for tournament winnings. Projections are set to reach one billion dollars this year.
While this is already hard to imagine, the industry has only become mainstream over the last few years, with professional players competing in Counter-Strike, League of Legends and Dota 2 – some of the biggest games.
One person at the centre of this phenomenon is University of Canberra graduate, Saira Mueller, an esports reporter for Dot Esports in Austin, Texas.
“I got into e-sports coverage about a year and a half ago now. At that point it was just starting to gather momentum. In the last year it has really exploded and gained a lot of attention. While it is big worldwide, mostly in Korea, China and America, it is slowly catching up in Australia.”
Making the move to New York was always a goal for Saira, and after finishing her UC degree she set off to study a Masters at Columbia University. Joining the Columbia University Women in Media society as the Social Media Manager provided Saira with a solid platform to begin her career in the US.
“Although it was a very intensive program, we found the time to set up a panel day with a group of women from various walks of media life to discuss women in media and journalism. This provided an open space to connect and chat about a variety of issues, preparing us for the real world.’
Originally seeking a position within the magazine industry, Saira realised that there were limited jobs available, and knew that she needed to find something in order to stay in America. Knowing that she had an interest in tech and games, she started interviewing with tech companies and found herself in the esports industry.
“If someone had said to me when I was at UC that I would be working in esports and living in America, travelling to different locations to sit in a crowd of hundreds of thousands of people, to watch gamers compete for millions of dollars, I would have thought you were crazy. But looking back I wouldn’t change a thing; I love working in this industry.”
In her current role as the Managing Editor for Dot Esports, Saira begins her days by checking emails to see if any breaking news has come through from PR agencies, game developers and esports organisations. A daily team morning meeting sets her up for the rest of the day; assigning stories to reporters, working on features, publishing articles and making sure that everything is covered for their website.
The role also requires her to travel around America frequently for events and tournaments. Last year Saira was a part of a panel at SXSW Sports in Austin, and she spoke on another panel about women in esports in Los Angeles.
“I travel a lot, mostly to the west coast to places like LA, San Diego, San Francisco and Vegas. It’s fun, but it’s still work and I need to be networking, building on connections and making sure that the team is covering everything that they need to be. It can be overwhelming at times, especially when multiple events are running on the same day, so it’s important to stay on top of things.”
While she hasn’t experienced any big culture shocks from living across the globe, she does comment on how easy it is to build up contacts and sources living where she is.
“A lot of the time at the events in this industry it’s the same people. The esports industry is so small that we are now all pretty much friends by this point as we see each other multiple times a year.”
It’s still an area however, that is underrepresented by females who account for roughly only 20% of the industry*. Saira is not sure why, but says that its possible they don’t know its an available and viable option for a career path.
“There are a lot of women that go to these competitive video game tournaments, and slowly there are more women joining the industry, so hopefully it continues to expand.”
For anyone wanting to pursue a career in esports or as a sports journalist, Saira recommends reaching out for freelance work. Even for those based in Australia, using the time differences can work as an advantage for when breaking news hits during the late hours in America. Starting a blog can also be a way to break into the industry, as it demonstrates writing skills and management experience in creating and publishing content. Showing your passion and commitment can be extremely beneficial in the long-term.
“Don’t be discouraged if you can’t find jobs in Australia – just look elsewhere. There are jobs all over the world, even if it’s not in the industry that you thought you were going to get into. Moving overseas is one of the best things that you can do. Not only do you learn about yourself and your limits, but also what you ultimately want in life.”
Words by Stephanie Cossetto
*According to research firm SuperData Research
Bachelor of Journalism, University of Canberra (2011)
Saira Mueller graduated from the University of Canberra with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2011.
She has previously held positions as a Freelance Reporter for MTV and the Technology & Gaming Reporter for IBT Media. Saira is currently the Managing Editor for Dot Esports in Austin, Texas.
You can connect with Saira via LinkedIn.