How to Become a Professional Gamer – Seung Heun Lee at Game Coach, Esports Academy

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“Mom! I need $ 1 to play sports!


It’s a famous comment that captures the negative perception some people had about esports for 10 years. In 2018, however, esport was selected as one of the demonstration events of the Asian Games Jakarta-Palembang 2018. Korea won a few gold medals, the national anthem was played and it was called the same way as any other traditional sport. This is the age we are living in now.


Since the early 2000s, the “professional gamer” has been at the top of the list of dream jobs for young people, and for many people today, that dream is not just a dream, but a goal that can be reached. According to the 2017 esport assessment, the esports industry in South Korea is valued at around USD 73 million, an increase of 14.9% from 2015, and experts say that this incremental trend will remain stable for some time.


Despite the growth of esports, very few adults have a clear answer when their children ask them how to become a professional gamer. Game Coach Academy, an esports academy, was created to be that answer.
An esports academy; the name itself sounds quite strange; many of those who hear about it are probably wondering “why would you pay to learn how to play a game?” Although the size of the esports industry has grown, people are still skeptical about the need for esports academies. Some say this is just another attempt to join a growing industry, while others fear it may privatize esports education unnecessarily. We had an interview with Seung Heun Lee, director of the Game Coach Academy, to talk about these issues.


Q. Game Coach Academy, the name sounds quite foreign to the public. Please give us a brief introduction.


We are the first Bureau of Education approved esports academy with the best facilities in South Korea. Professional gamers are highly regarded by teenagers these days, but there is no place that properly teaches them how to become a professional gamer. How many teachers in the school could pave the way for becoming a professional player?


This was the purpose of the creation of the academy. He is a core business of Big Picture Interactive and also leads the Overwatch and PUBG pro teams under the Element Mystic name. We also run the Rainbow Six tournament with Ubisoft.


Q. There must have been a lot of difficulty at the start of the academy.


At first we didn’t have our own private space. We got venture capital and only rented the place when there was a demand, and the number of students started to increase day by day. So we decided to expand and have our office in Guro Digital Valley. We tried our best to become an official academy by complying with the requirements of academies offered by the Education Office, and then started online marketing. After we had a number of players and provided a variety of content, we started to go viral.


Q. The academy was the first to receive official approval as an esports academy from the Bureau of Education in June 2017. Did you encounter any difficulties?


Our first branch in Guro Digital Valley is under the Seoul Nambu District Education Office, and everything went smoothly as expected. We met all the requirements they asked for an academy so it went really well with no hassle.

Q. There are so many teachers who couldn’t reach the pro league because of boosting and trolling. Can you tell us how the recruitment is done?


It’s similar to how normal businesses hire employees. His personality and whether he’s engaged in the boost are crucial, so we check our own network to see if the person is suitable or not. The role is to teach the students, so the ability to impart knowledge to others is also very important. It doesn’t mean anything when you can’t tell them how to play even if you’re really good at it.


It was not easy to find teachers when I started the business. I have listed all of the former players available who could possibly join, and many of them were quite skeptical about this as the business was not settled yet. However, it improves a lot after getting approval from the Education of Office proving that we are a legal workplace and continually share our vision with them.


Q. There are two types of classes; an esports course for those who want to be professional players and a hobby course. What is the connection ?


Most of them are in the esports class. I guess it’s probably 9: 1. Those in the hobby class are salaried, and they usually stop coming after 3-6 months of membership since reaching their goal.


Q. We’re told it’s about $ 200 per week for recreation and $ 500 for eSports. There is no previous case, so it will probably become a market standard, but the price is quite high and some are concerned that the price is a little too high.


Although it is once a week, it is a 6 hour class. It’s long enough than in any other academy. Price, duration and number of classes were based on other existing entertainment academies. We had some ups and downs at the beginning and here are the current tuition fees that we came up with after analyzing all the data.


On top of that, the parents of the students are relatively young as the students themselves are quite young, and many of them are positive about esports.


Q. The most fundamental question of all; do we really need to go to an academy for the game?


Many parents or guardians don’t know much about students who want to become professional gamers. Personality is one thing; many of them surely know that verbal abuse comes with punishment, but don’t take it seriously. Improvements in this regard also help to improve their skills. It’s not just about how often you play the game, and we’re here to show them the right way to play.


On top of that, the most popular games these days are team based and you can’t really learn the aspects on your own. You cannot have scrim experiences, and you are here to learn things that you cannot do when you practice on your own. Ultimately, your personal potential is the most important part of playing the game well as a team. We have classes to harness the potential of those at the lower level and teach the basics of team games to those at the higher level.

Q. We have heard that the academy supports a prestigious international college entrance program called EScorts. Can you tell us more?


Many universities, including Huajia University in China and Ming Chuan University in Taiwan, are establishing esports faculties, and we help students integrate the school or international professional team by cooperating through our network.


Q. Major professional gaming teams are also considering opening their own academies. What is the unique strength of the Game Coach?


I believe there were a couple like this before, but I doubt they are being managed well right now. We have our own expertise that we’ve learned from a lot of mistakes in the past, and I’m sure we’re more competitive than them. The teams will be making the same mistakes we made before, and we are confident we can get ahead of them.


Q. What business would you like to do next?


We recently opened another branch in Hongdae and are in the process of cleaning up the premises. We also try to partner with public education and we are also interested in foreign markets. Generally speaking, we would like to work on creating a system that helps amateurs improve.


Q. Would you like to say a few words to those who are interested in an esports academy?


I hope they don’t come here just to break away from their daily routine. We can see it from what they’re doing here. One person can spoil the whole atmosphere and four or five can suffer. We even had to force a few to go back. This place is for those who are really interested in becoming professional gamers. If you don’t have a vague determination, but are rather passionate about turning out to be a pro, we’re here to help.


Realistically, not everyone can become a professional gamer, even if they attend an academy. However, you won’t have time to regret even after quitting if you’ve done everything you could have done. We usually teach things about the game, but we also take care of coaching the students to become good players. And it’s not just professional players; we also give advice and support to those looking to work in the esports industry.

?? Source: Academy of Game Coaches


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