Ever thought about working in the esports industry? It’s no secret that esports events have become part of the mainstream, and while there are a lot of opportunities, getting to the big leagues is not something that just happens overnight. Nobody knows that better than Tyler Hack, co-founder of Reset Gaming. We recently found a break in Tyler’s extremely busy schedule to talk about how he got into the industry, some of the challenges it faces and where it’s going, and he also gave some sound advice for people who want to get their foot in the door.
1. How did you get started in the esports industry?
Well, I started in the industry about five years ago, and have spent the past three years operating above the local level. I was doing wedding event planning before that, and one night my roommates and I were hanging out watching a documentary about esports. Afterwards, we decided to run a tournament at the house. We put it together, and a lot of people actually showed up, so we kept it going. I eventually started running a lot of the regional esports events around the Florida panhandle area, mostly focused on console games, and as those events grew (from 32 people at the first one, to a consistent 250), I started bringing in the right people and buying more equipment. Then in 2016 we pulled off a last minute “save the day job” at an event in Ft. Myers, FL which got the attention of a lot of people around the state. It was a huge success, and within the next 3 months we ended up working on CEO, Evo, and Pokemon World Championships. From there, we just kept expanding!
2. Tell us about your company, Reset Gaming.
We are a turnkey event production company that specializes in esports. We find tournaments or conventions that want to include esports elements or just have game rooms, and work with them to fill their needs and help meet their goals, whether it be with hardware, staffing, through consulting, or bringing in a stream/supplementing theirs. We just do our thing in the background making sure everything runs smoothly, and if we do a really great job, nobody knows who we are…which is kinda sad when you think about it!
3. Streaming is a big part of esports, but it’s also an area in the industry where there is room for growth. Can you elaborate on that?
Viewership numbers have been growing consistently across all games, but in a lot of places, the production quality hasn’t followed that growth. The level of production quality that you see sometimes is very conservative, and that’s mainly because of the nature of live esports events and the lack of support that most of the broadcast/streaming companies are given. There are some companies (including ours) that are trying to change that by doing things that are truly innovative, but that can sometimes be difficult. It’s hard to plan what style of broadcast you’re going to do for a game because you don’t know if there is going to be a stable internet connection when you show up. There is a certain amount of infrastructure that needs to be standardized. Until that happens, people will tend to play things a little closer to the chest.
4. Internet connectivity and a solid network are obviously big parts of esports events. Who deals with making sure that is taken care of?
It’s usually run through whoever has the deal with the venue. When you show up, there will be hardlines for the streaming machines and typically you’ll get one Wi-Fi connection for the entire room (not public facing), which is okay until the password gets out! It is really expensive and sometimes the cost outprices the smaller events. We try to scale some of our packages for the smaller, up and coming, grassroots events so we can help support them. A lot of times we see them running on the Wi-Fi network for their broadcast, which caps a lot of the presentation quality, which can be a challenge, especially when it comes to sponsorship sourcing.
5. What is the biggest change you’ve seen since you first started in the industry?
On the franchise and developer side of esports, what they have done for the industry as a whole with pushing for higher broadcast standards and pushing forward expectations of behavior has been great. That is now starting to trickle down into the less regulated side of esports and grassroots events. It’s really been a net-positive.
6. Is there anything you would like to see change or evolve in the industry?
With the way the industry relies on freelance work, there needs to be some standards set. You have the professionals who are out there delivering the best product they can, but they also expect and deserve to be paid for that. Then you have the hobbyists who are working for next to nothing or volunteering to do a job (for free) that somebody should really be getting paid for. When people are getting hired for “exposure bucks” or for free tickets, a flight, and a hotel room, it makes it really hard for the professionals on-site to do their job properly and help grow the industry. It’s something we see a lot, especially on the broadcast and streaming side.
7. What do you like most about the esports industry?
I came from the world of wedding event planning, so I haven’t heard the “Cupid Shuffle” in 4 years?! Haha! I mean esports is exciting because it’s a new industry. There is a lot of room to grow and try new things, because everyone is trying new things. You can experiment a little bit more than on other types of events without taking as big of a risk. It’s a lot more open than something like convention work, which has an understood concept at this point.
8. What has been your favorite event that you were part of and why?
For my company, it’s MomoCon. That is a giant anime convention in Atlanta, and they are really pushing the esports angle. It’s a little bit of a longer event, so it lets us do the more structured style while giving us a little room for experimentation with things we want to try. They are also really a great group to work for.
Events that I’ve done solo contracting….it might be recency bias, but I just got back from Evo Japan, and that was a blast. It was also a lot of hard work, but the product is really good so it’s something you can take a lot of pride in.
9. What advice would you give to someone that is trying to get into the esports industry?
If you’re coming in completely fresh, volunteer (which I know contradicts what I said before), to get your foot in the door. Do it once or twice so you can get a good overview and gain a little bit of experience. But most importantly, don’t volunteer for too long. After you volunteer, start looking to see where there’s a gap in what people need that you can fill. Then you can step from being a volunteer to being someone sought after with a specific product or skill that they need. That will help you make connections a lot faster. But again, do not volunteer for too long!!
10. Where do you see the industry going in the next 5 years?
Well that’s scary! There is so much money in the industry right now, and its mostly VC (venture capitalists). But you don’t see huge profits being posted, or at least you don’t see it regularly enough to fit the promise of the industry that’s being sold to people getting involved. I think there are a lot of factors that lead to the slow growth. As an industry, we’re still trying to figure out what works best for what we do. There is the relatively new franchise method coming over to esports, and we’re starting to see some positive stuff there. But I really think the question is “Do investors start to get cold feet and pull out, and if so, is that good or bad?” On some level, a little bit less free, rampant money being dumped into the industry will cause people to act a little less frivolously, which I think will help the image overall. Right now, there always seems to be some random event in the middle of nowhere with a $70,000 pot and a bunch of sponsors who are going to get burned because someone thought “Hey, I can just do this!” That kind of stuff just gives us all a bad rap.
Photo Courtesy of Reset Gaming