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Peter Remon

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Can executives learn from the esports industry?


Earlier this month, the first-ever esports gym was announced to be opening in Japan. The space will be a place for all gamers whether they are a professional or an amateur, to improve their game, and seek advice and guidance from professional players, according to the Esports gym owners.

Though many may see this Esports gym as a gimmick or a novelty, it does not distract us from the fact the wider esports industry generally is booming. Whether it be it’s mass viewing on streaming sites like Twitch, or the more mainstream sports TV channels starting to take notice – it’s safe to say the industry is becoming more established and growing at an expeditious speed. 

Whilst with many industries, covid-19 has had a huge impact on esports. However, unlike most, this impact has been a positive one, with physical sports pausing for some time last year, esports capitalised on the gap in the market, contributing to its predicted growth to surpass $1.5B by 2023.

“The esports industry currently feels exactly like the Fintech industry did 5 or 6 years ago”, says Bjorn Cumps, Professor of Management Practice and head of the schools Gaming and Esports elective for Masters programmes. “We are at a period where we are not far from seeing incredible growth in the esports sector, and businesses need to now understand the platforms for gaming, the data and how to use it and the process of developing gamification, if they want to get ahead of this boom”.

The Vlerick Gaming & Esports elective teaches students the various aspects of the industry specifically how to build gamification into a business model, how to utilise gaming platforms and the business possibilities of this industry. However, it’s not just the gaming industry that learning about and playing esports can prepare you for, according to Dr Markus Weinmann, an Assistant Professor at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM). “Many skills deemed necessary in games are also required in modern working environments, such as organizing and planning or strategic thinking. Games can help reveal those skills, which can then be applied in professional lives.”, he says.

This something Mickael Romezy, the Director of the Sports Makers Program at emlyon business school echoes. “ESports requires a lot of training and the development of managerial skills that can be transposed in a corporate environment.”, Romezy says, “skills such as the capacity for strategic analysis, risk calculation, leadership, team spirit, stress management, decision making and performance management can be developed through esports. These are many qualities expected from future managers and executives in companies”. 

Emlyon business school, like Vlerick, also offers an elective in esports for it’s Masters students, who can utilise the gaming sector to develop these transferable skills in their professional lives. But are these skills, if developed in an esports environment, valued by employers?

For Dr Weinmann, it depends on the industry, “Some innovative companies even develop "serious games," which are games that are not primarily entertainment, but for recruitment. Because management skills become visible in some games, it would make sense for companies to add gaming performance to their existing set of performance indicators. Some researchers even recommend applicants to include gaming experience in the resume.”.

Different employers will certainly value this skillset, but according to Mickael Romezy, “most companies are interested in recruiting those who have, in addition to first-rate academic training, developed an appetite for digital, skills oriented teamwork, efficient communication, risk calculation and decision making under stress, many of which can be showcased through esports training”.

But, it’s not only the transferable skills into management, leadership and high-pressure roles that this esports training can be valuable for. The gaming industry itself is booming, and offers graduates and candidates a vast wealth of opportunities according to Professor Cumps. “Esports is just one small component of the wider gaming industry, where there are a massive amount of opportunities for our graduates. Whether it be working in the development of gamification for businesses, in a marketing role focused on gaming, or a data-driven role too, there is a huge amount of opportunity and growth in this sector”.

Given many employers are now seeing the benefits of this training, and what it can bring to management and leadership roles, is it likely that corporate training and executive education may begin to revolve around esports, as an innovative way to develop these skills further.

Dr. Weinmann says that the growth here seems to be more in the recruitment and selection process, where games could be suitably used to identify candidates who have specific skillsets relevant to that game. However, “further studies are needed to investigate causal relationships between games and performance, and whether companies should invest their L&D in this area”.

Therefore, it is clear to see the gaming industry both offers ample opportunities for graduates and candidates as a booming sector, but also the paying of esports offer many transferable skills for those looking to step further into management and leadership roles. However, it remains to be seen whether companies will invest the efforts in learning and development in this specific sector, though this may more than likely boom as the sector continues to dramatically grow. 


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