Microsoft Store’s Esports Academy is a crash course in the trials and tribulations of going pro in Aus

The Microsoft Store in Sydney’s Pitt St Mall will be hosting a brand new course these school holidays centred entirely around teaching students about what it takes to succeed in the rapidly emerging world of competitive esports.
Aimed squarely at high school age students, the three hour course will take would-be professional gamers through every part of the esports experience. Actual play to live shoutcasting and commentary, right through to the production of a high quality broadcast will all be part of the curriculum. Microsoft had us along to a short media session at the store this morning and the takeaways were uniformly positive.

Microsoft have partnered with esports giant ESL for the course, allowing for each session to be headed up a number of local legends from within the industry. The impressive list of names tutoring each session is:

  • Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Rainbow Six: Seige host, caster and local ESL business team member Danny “DK” Kim
  • Avant Gaming League of Legends Oceanic Pro League captain Jayke “Jayke” Paulsen
  • COO of Avant Gaming and former semi-pro CS:GO Rohan “Brucy’ Bruce
  • On-air host, interviewer and behind-the-scenes Jill-of-all-trades for the Oceania Pro League and ESL Australia, Laura “Saerianne” Scott
  • Former CS:GO heavyweight turned analyst and commentator Iain ‘SnypeR’ Turner. His team’s dismantling of Cloud9 at the Crown Invitational in 2015 is still talked about today in CS:GO circles.
  • Dark Sided esports team owner and gaming community manager at the Sydney Microsoft Store Max Ferfoglia.

With such a wealth of local talent on offer, students who undertake the course will be well served with a immense pool of experience and advice on offer. And the advice is frank — every member of the panel to speak this morning was upfront about the grind involved in going pro. Turner in particular was quick to point out that while its easy enough to practice on your own and gain a high degree of skill in any particular game, that alone wont be enough to advance to the professional tier. Good team work and communication are essential, as is the ability to comport yourself under pressure and the ability to lose with grace when a victory can’t be clinched. These are all things that the course aims to instill in those who undertake it.

And then you get to play some games. A good chunk of each session will be given over to playing the group’s choice of either Overwatch or League of Legends (without wanting to sound glib, I know which of the two I’d pick and I reckon I know what the kids are going to pick too).

Additionally, and this is important: interested students should know there’s also going to be a small amount of group work and a 2-3 minute presentation involved. I know. Bit harsh, especially during the holidays. Bright side, at least its on a topic you’re interested in though. How often do you get to do a group project or a presentation on Overwatch?

Esports has a growing profile in Australia. Last year’s Intel Extreme Masters CS:GO tournament in Sydney drew a crowd of thousands. The Sydney stop on the Overwatch World Cup tour drew similarly massive and enthusiastic crowds. Elsewhere, companies like Gfinity have partnered with Hoyts cinemas to build a number of broadcast ready esports stadiums within existing theatres around the country.

This makes sense. Australians have a compulsive love of competition. We’ll seek it out, no matter what form it takes, physical or digital. We’ll create competition in spaces where it didn’t exist before. We’re the ones that invented the game of lobbing beach balls over banners at the first PAX Aus because it was taking too long to open the Queue Room, remember? They play that game at PAXes around the world now but we made it up on the spot because Australians have a pathological need to be competing for something at all times.

Increasingly, a career in esports is becoming a viable prospect for those with the skill, discipline and drive to do so. While no official qualifications in the particulars of esports production and play currently exist, courses like Esports Academy are an important first step, a good way to impress the realities of the industry and the life that accompanies it upon those looking for a foot in the door and an important networking opportunity for those enterprising enough to want to start building a contact base.

Esports Academy will run from April 16-22, 2018. Registration is now open via the Microsoft AU website.