The Esports Certificate is the topic of widespread debate on social media. Esports.GG spoke with its Founder Seb Park about the community’s reaction and what lessons can be learned for ECI moving forward.

A noble cause but a bumpy launch

The Esports Certification Institute launched less than 24 hours ago with a whole host of industry experts attached to the project in advisory roles. The ECI offers an esports certificate at a cost of $400 for those looking to add another string to their bow when entering the esports industry. In order to obtain the certificate, students are required to complete an exam using a pay-what-you-want study guide.

However, its launch – while initially greeted with fanfare due to the expertise of the people involved – quickly became a topic for strong debate and memes. So much so that #esports trended on Twitter as a result of the passionate discourse surrounding the ECI. ECI was accused of potentially gatekeeping and its study guide and exam questions were picked apart by esports fans and community figures.

I sat down to chat to its founder Seb Park following the whirlwind 24 hours, to find out more about the ECI. Seb Park was more than happy to discuss the mixed reaction to the launch of the ECI, and shared more details about the project that may sway public opinion.

Esports.GG’s interview with Seb Park, the Founder of ECI

Malystryx: After the initial buzz of the announcement of the Esports Certificate things took a nasty turn quite quickly. A lot of prominent figures came forward with critiques. What were the critiques that stood out to you that you think were fair criticism.

Seb Park, Founder of the Esports Certification Institute (ECI)

Seb Park: I think the most fair thing is we messaged poorly. We didn’t tell people exactly what we were doing, we weren’t as straightforward with it. So one, if you’re trying to become a talent, a person, a member of the media, in any sense of the word, the esports certificate is not for you. This is not for you, it was never built for you.

If you’ve bought a test or study guide under the expectation it would be, please let us know what we need to get you the free full refund you deserve.

The Esports Certificate is for entry level business folk. This is for people who are entry level individuals, who have a lot of the core base skills needed and just need to show that they understand esports, that they have an idea what the heck is happening out there, and to provide value in that sense.

We definitely messed that up for sure. I think that’s an incredibly fair criticism. We messed up our messaging a lot yesterday and it’s something we’re working to fix.

What were the critiques of the esports certificate program that you felt perhaps people might feel differently about with more information?

Seb Park: We’ve heard a lot of feedback and pushback on gatekeeping, you know, frankly, ECI is just one avenue to break into esports. Breaking into the industry is different for everyone. And this doesn’t replace showcasing your creativity or using a portfolio or being the right person at the right time.

But like, especially for those of people out there who are coming right out of college in high school. I want to be very clear the process is really fraught and and we spend a lot of time talking to hiring managers and industry leaders, and company runners. We talked to some of the biggest publishers and companies in the world and they receive hundreds if not 1000s of applications.

“Our core demographic for the esports certificate is high school to university and post grads looking for a way in.”

Seb PARK, founder of the esports certificate institute

It’s just very hard because for an entry level position the expectation is you should have 10 years of experience is crazy, right? Like, they should instead have good experience, like a good solid baseline of stuff that they’ve done and then work off of that. That’s something we want to make sure that we address. We just want to provide different pathways and avenues for people to make into the space. If you’ve already made it into esports, you don’t need to take this test.

If you’ve made it into esports and you’re happy over your careers and you’re excited about the opportunity to work in this space. Hell yeah. Like we’re super excited for you as well. This is, this is for frankly, the 10s of 1000s maybe even hundreds of 1000s of people in the West who pined for the esports dream and hadn’t found a way in.

People who have skills and abilities. They’ve graduated high school or university, have studied and worked on some things and are just looking for ways to say ‘hey, please help show that I’m part of this great thing’. It’s to add that part to their resume help them showcase themselves. Our core demographic for the esports certificate is high school to university and post grads looking for a way in.

Malystryx: Another critique regarding the esports certificate was the $400 price tag being quite steep. I saw on your website that you talk about scholarships but there are no precise details regarding it. Is that something you’re looking to develop and is the $400 a temporary price? Will there be other avenues in the future to pay the cost of the certificate?

Seb Park: Appreciate you noticing that, yea we messed that up too. The intent of ECI is that if you can afford paying the amount then please do. We’d love to have you. It’s very similar to the pay-what-you-can-afford model for the study guide. Realistically we’ve been working with leaders, institutions and companies to fund a variety of free-waivers and scholarships. We were planning, probably incorrectly to have the announcement down the road. We already have between 50 to 100 scholarships funded.

“We definitely messed up by not giving everyone all the information upfront at launch, and not being super clear with what we were trying to do.”

SEB PARK, FOUNDER OF THE ESPORTS CERTIFICATE INSTITUTE

Malystryx: That’s great. It seems there is information you decided not to share at launch. I was just wondering what motivated that choice. Thinking back now, what information do you wish you had shared yesterday, and what is coming that might pique the public’s interest of the project?

Seb Park: Yeah, I mean, we definitely messed up our intentions with the launch. Our idea was to spend the first day highlighting some of the awesome people we’re working with to keep the focus on them. We definitely messed up by not giving everyone all the information upfront at launch, and not being super clear with what we were trying to do. And that was, that was certainly our bad.

We need to do a better job of continuing to iterate on our communication. You know, we probably should have launched and shared our plans for the next coming days with both companies were we’re working with, as well as advisors, members, leaders and the who people who donated via the pay-what-you-can-afford model. Our initial plan was on Thursday or Friday to announce the first batch of scholarship recipients. Prior to launch we funded something in the ballpark of 50 to 100 already, and we’re in the process of funding a bunch more.

It’s very much near and dear to me personally honestly. As a child of immigrants I made use of a lot of the benefits of meeting people who are patrons of mine who’ve helped me to guarantee university, guarantee getting into esports. And without them, I wouldn’t have been able to do it and so a lot of our model is really contingent on that fact. The fact that if you can’t afford it, we have all these different avenues and ways for you to get certification test access. You still have to pass it, you still have to study and put in the work. But we’re rolling that out over the next few days.

We have some company announcements in terms of like universities and partnerships that we have that are coming out in the next few weeks. We probably should have launched with some of those as well. It’s just fun learning lessons in terms of of launch.

“Certainly it sucks to see something you’re working on not be received well. But our takeaway wasn’t that those people are wrong and that we’re right. I think our takeaway aptly was ‘how can we improve this’?”

SEB PARK, FOUNDER OF THE ESPORTS CERTIFICATE INSTITUTE

Malystryx: A certain portion of the community were labelling the ECI as gatekeepers. From our chat it doesn’t seem that is your intention. What are your thoughts?

Seb Park: Yeah, definitely not. I mean I don’t know if that rings hollow. We can always say that we aren’t gatekeepers and people may misunderstand or not believe us. And so I suppose we’ll just have to prove in the pudding, I definitely want to better promote awesome people who historically and traditionally wouldn’t had a chance to get into esports. Offer them a new pathway.

Malystryx: I can imagine it must be quite frustrating for you to have invested so much time into this project and then for the narrative to turn from ‘I’m not sure this is a good idea’ to ‘cash grab evil corp’. How did you and your colleagues react?

Seb Park: I mean, I think I get a lot of credit to both our advisory board and to the people working on behind the scenes. Certainly it sucks to see something you’re working on not be received well. But our takeaway wasn’t that those people are wrong and that we’re right. I think our takeaway aptly was ‘how can we improve this’? There is some great feedback on things that should be on the test or not be on the test. And we’re we’re already working on revising and updating the test to reflect that.

“What’s fun is that we’ve actually – and it’s probably not great for everyone’s mental health – but we’ve read through all the feedbacks all the memes because there’s some value in memes as well.”

SEB PARK, FOUNDER OF THE ESPORTS CERTIFICATE INSTITUTE

Malystryx: Regarding the questions what part of the test do you think still works and what part of the test will you be revising? Because people really picked it apart.

Seb Park: Loved a lot of the feedback. So there are a couple things that are worth mentioning, right? For a lot of people who are already in esports they really picked it apart because they’re their talent or this is not for my skill level. This is not for what we’re doing. And I think that’s completely correct. For them they have their own specialised hiring processes and their own specialised interviews and much more power to them.

I think one of the big ones I saw was ‘this isn’t supposed to be a math test’, right? The data comprehension section is supposed to reflect the principles behind the types of data you see on Twitter and Twitch dashboards. So you understand what those numbers mean, data principles around probability and trends are useful, irrespective of your role in esports. And that’s incredibly important to certification. So we’re certainly working on updating that. So that reflects what we want it to be. Frankly, what’s fun is that we’ve actually – and it’s probably not great for everyone’s mental health – but we’ve read through all the feedbacks all the memes because there’s some value in memes as well.

Malystryx: Any final thoughts you’d like to share with our readers at Esports.GG?

Seb Park: The advisory board we put together, we all love esports. We’ve spent decades if not more in this space. Frankly when most of us got into esports, there was no money to be made. We were all sleeping on couches, sharing massive team houses not because they were cool, but because that was the only way we could afford rent. We didn’t come into esports thinking it would be as big as it is. And I think this is an opinion echoed by everyone on the advisory board and everyone we work with. We want to figure out a way to give back and make something we think is a huge problem in esports better for people hoping to enter this space.

Lawrence

Lawrence "Malystryx" Phillips

Director of Content | Twitter: @MalystryxGDS | Twitch: MalyPlays

Malystryx is a content creator, journalist, interviewer, and personality. He has been involved in the esports scene since 2004 and has worked with many different organizers and portals, including SK Gaming, ESL, Dexerto, GINXTV, Razer and Monster Energy. Malystryx was also a broadcast talent on Valve's Dota 2 Pro Circuit over the last few years, creating on-site video content for PGL and Starladder. In his spare time he streams on Twitch as MalyPlays.