I get the question all the time. Through Tweets. Through DMs when I ever open up to the public. When I’m at events.
“How did you start writing? How did you begin in esports?”
“How do I start out in esports? How do I get a job in esports?”
To be honest, when I first started writing back about esports full-time, all the way back in 2011 — That’s six years ago! Some NA LCS fans aren’t even that old yet — I never thought about writing in esports to be a career path.
You had trail blazers like Richard Lewis and Thoorin, but at the time, still a high schooler, I had no idea about the wide scope of esports. I was just a dopey kid who really liked StarCraft: Brood War. I would stay up way past my bedtime — Yes, I was 17 and still had a bedtime. I promise I had a lot of friends. Really. Trust me, please — and watch OGN Proleague or Starleague on my crappy desktop computer that couldn’t even play the beta of League of Legends.
I would watch these epic narratives play out in front of me in a language that I didn’t even understand. The only way I could really piece together what the story lines were at the time was by reading the content produced on TeamLiquid.net. Yes, before it was a professional gaming team it was the Mecca of StarCraft news, analysis, and discussion on the internet. I would spend hours reading previews and long form articles by guys who had a talent and painting beautiful, exciting stories for fans to follow that didn’t speak Korean.
Tyrants. Gods. Underdogs. Dynasties. Maestros. Mafia bosses. All tied together with OGN’s fantastic production that still stands to this day, it was the closest thing to an anime fused with traditional sports, and for a nerdy high schooler with no real friends and a love for both anime and traditional sports, it was awesome. I wrote a few pieces back then, but nothing serious. I didn’t think I was good enough compared to the top writers on Liquid. They were pros. I was just some high school kid with shitty grades that didn’t even start following the game until the legends like Lim “BoxeR” Yo-hwan and Choi “iloveoov” Yun-sung had already retired.
It wasn’t until StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty, the sequel to the original game, came out that I started writing for the website. And even then, it wasn’t until a year after the game came out that I put out my first article. I wasn’t asked to write it. I didn’t send in an application. No one gave me any guidance.
What happened was that it was during the game’s supposed biggest tournament to date, the Super Tournament, where the winner would walk away with around $100,000, which back in 2011 was unheard of. In the tournament itself, the results weren’t going as the community wanted. Top names lost. Big upsets happened. One race, Terran, was kicking everyone’s ass, per usual. When the quarterfinals were set, the excitement was at an all-time low; fans were balance whining, and some people were even going as far as saying they wouldn’t watch the final eight.
“This is boring! I can’t watch this.”
I, on the other hand, was drawn to the final eight. I saw story lines. I saw dynamic characters. I saw specific threads that people weren’t seeing at face value. If you peeled back the paint just a bit, you saw a story — a clear one to me, at least — of epic proportions.
So, staying up one night until the brightness of the sun bled through my shoddy curtains, I wrote this. Over the span of a few hours, I wrote down the stories of each of the eight quarter finalists, and I tried to share my excitement with others. I wanted people to see what I saw. These epic stories. These interesting, complex characters. Sure, they weren’t the established cast the community had gotten used to, but these guys were fighting for $100,000! This is awesome!
It didn’t take more than a few days for TeamLiquid to officially ask me to join the writing team after a positive response from the community. At this point, dear reader, golden eyed full of hope, you probably think this is where I start my career as a writer. TL pays me to write for them. I make money. I go from there. Everyone is happy.
Actually, I didn’t get paid anything. The offer for me to write (which I only accepted after numerous attempts to decline) for the website was that Team Liquid would pay for me to watch the VODs of the big tournaments so I could write about them. Yes, back in 2011, GOM, the broadcaster of the biggest StarCraft II tournaments in South Korea, had a website where you had to pay something like $30 a month to watch replays and high quality versions of the casts. To me, who thought esports as only a fun hobby, this was awesome.
So far the next two years, I wrote about five or six articles a week for Team Liquid and wasn’t paid a penny outside of VODs. I generated tons of views on some of my bigger stories, but I didn’t get any compensation out of getting to watch an HD version of a match. But still, to me, it was great; I didn’t write for money. I didn’t write to be known. I didn’t have any social media at the time. I did it because I loved crafting stories. I would sit at home and never felt prouder than when a caster would point out something wrote in an article or discuss a narrative that I crafted in an article.
I created something and people cared. I was creating larger than life heroes from kids playing a video game. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t making a career out of it; I felt a satisfaction that money couldn’t buy from actual people seeing matches from my point-of-view and sharing in my joy of the game.
Eventually, yeah, I would get breaks. I would start writing about some weird MOBA that was created by a studio called “Riot” or something. I got paid opportunities. I lost jobs. I gained jobs. I would climb high, and then, without notice, I’d screw up and end up back at the bottom. Now, through a mixture of luck, hard work, passion, and a bit of skill, I work at ESPN as a professional writer, something that I wanted to do when I was 12-years-old watching Around the Horn after school.
Things have changed, I won’t lie. I take things more seriously. I swear less (at least in articles). Yet, even today, I can tell you with pure honesty, that the best thing about working at ESPN isn’t the salary or the “fame” or whatever you want to name. It’s great being able to work in a career you love and be able to pay the bills, but I’m still at my happiest when someone recognizes or enjoys something I write.
When a person on Twitter tells me that a story about a player made them see that player in a new light or that a preview of a match-up got them excited for a game they don’t even follow, I’m truly happy. I fell into this as a career. I never sought it out; what I always chased was making people excited about nerds playing video games, and somehow, through my writing, making them these superheroes that I always saw them as when I was a 16-year-old in my darkened bedroom at 2:00 AM on a school night.
There’s not much else to say. Today, being an esports journalist/writer/media person, while difficult, especially in the ever-changing landscape of online media, is something that you can actually become. It’s possible. It’s a business that is growing, and although there will always be downs, you can actually make money through content in esports. It’s incredible. When I was writing on Team Liquid back in 2011, just starting out and full of vigor, my head editor told me that there was no chance of this becoming a career for me.
I’d never make it.
There was no path for me to write about esports and make a living.
And yet, here I am. So regardless of who you are, what your background is, or how old you are, don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t work in esports. You can. I’m proof. The road isn’t easy, and actually getting to any position where you’ll actually make money is incredibly difficult, but there’s a path, no matter how thorny, you can maneuver if you have the gumption.
Here’s the secret, though: If you try to get into content creation because you want it as a job or for money or for some sort of internet “fame”, you’ll almost always fail. I’ve seen people put the carriage before the horse before, and it’s ended with them angry, and wondering why things didn’t work out.
It doesn’t matter if you love to create videos, art, music, or stories. As long as you love it, and you genuinely enjoy esports, you should create. Youtube, Medium, whatever. Just create. Make stuff. Have fun. Try to show people what you love through your own special way. Don’t try to write something because you can get views; write something because you’re excited about it. Create something that after finishing it, you’re excited for an audience, regardless how many, to take it in and experience your point-of-view.
I hope you continue viewing through mine. I appreciate every person who has ever read anything I’ve created. When I was a kid, going through school, I didn’t have people to show my stuff to. No one cared. I actually put out most of my work on 4chan or random anime forums because that was the closest to a peer group I could form. I was too scared to join any clubs because I was scared of rejection. People scared me.
Today, I travel the world and meet new people daily. I cover events. I’ve made valuable relationships I would have never made without esports. I still get nervous and all that, I won’t lie, my social anxiety is still prevalent; however, through writing, I’ve changed my life. The one thing that hasn’t changed, though, is how happy I get when I share something — even if most people hate it, or Reddit thinks it’s stupid — and one person tells me that they really enjoyed it.
That’s how I started writing.
That’s why I still write.