We speak to Bosco Tan from the Gamer Institute, a new educational platform that matches up professional e-sports players with competitive gaming hopefuls.
Forget arcade tournaments, LAN nights, or Call of Duty multiplayer matches--now there's a new way for gamers to put their skills to the test.
The Australian-based Gamer Institute is the brainchild of three savvy entrepreneurial gamers--Daniel Grzelak, Semin Nurkic, and Bosco Tan--who matched their love of professional gaming with their talents for business to create a completely online-based learning centre that pairs up professional e-sports players with those looking to get some pro gaming advice.
The institute hosts online one-on-one lessons built by teams of mentors from around the world, with the aim of teaching players better tactics and strategies. Of course, it's not just for those who are looking to make a career out of pro gaming; the institute also provides for players who simply want to brag to their friends.
Currently, the institute focuses exclusively on League of Legends, but it has plans to expand to five new titles before the end of the year.
GameSpot AU spoke to co-director Bosco Tan about the ideas and philosophy behind Gamer Institute.
GameSpot AU: Can you start by telling us a little bit about yourself and your gaming background?
Bosco Tan: I first got the gaming bug when my dad borrowed an Atari Pong machine when I was growing up. Being naturally competitive, I used to spend hours in front of it trying to get better so I can beat my dad. My co-founders, Daniel Grzelak and Semin Nurkic, and I have had similar experiences with gaming. Throughout our gaming lives, we've been constantly frustrated with either being too good, or not good enough. Plenty of broken controllers, keyboards, and mice. Luckily, no broken screens yet!
Apart from loving games and being competitive about them, Daniel, Semin, and I are longtime friends. Together, we have a great mix of professional, commercial, and technical experience. My background is in years of consulting, and subsequently working on strategic projects. Daniel and Semin have many years of corporate and startup experience.
GS AU: How did the idea for Gamer Institute come about?
BT: Daniel is the originator of the Gamer Institute idea. I recall speaking about our gaming frustrations, and he suggested that there was a little economy developing where players teach other players how to play certain aspects of games in exchange for fees but that there was no structured or trusted source for gaming education. As we continued to talk this through, his "imagine if we could learn gaming from the best, like learning to play basketball from Michael Jordan" pitch sold it.
Following a range of preliminary research into the growth of gaming globally and looking at the success of similar online education models in primary education and poker, we were convinced there was an amazing opportunity. Certainly early conversations with professional gamers and those that are competition at amateur levels were great confirmation as well.
Fundamentally, we believe we can contribute to the 20 percent projected growth of the emergent competitive gaming industry over the next five years, which today is already valuated at US$1.5 billion globally. There is also a sizable audience globally who wishes to just be competitive within their social circles.
GS AU: How did you raise the funds needed to set it up?
BT: We bootstrapped the business ourselves, drawing on our personal capital as well as proceeds from the successful exit of various previous online projects.
GS AU: What is the philosophy behind the school?
BT: We want to make competitive gaming accessible for everyone; young or old, rich or poor, girl or boy, athletic or nonathletic. Unlike traditional sports, competitive gaming, or e-sports, is one of these great equalisers where almost anyone can become a world best without the need to be specifically blessed genetically, as long as those that desire it are given the right opportunities.
There is currently a narrow path that could lead to the $100-500K yearly earnings as a pro gamer. We think part of this is being able to facilitate the development process through giving gamers access to the experience of the people that are already there at the top. At the same time, however, for those that just want to play for fun, we can help them get those bragging rights so they can torture their friends with never-ending mockery.
GS AU: So how do the lessons work? Is it done purely online? Or is there a physical element as well?
BT: At the moment all of our training is completed online by necessity. Both our students and coaches are located all over the globe. The intention is to run intensive multi-day courses in physical labs once demand in a geographical area reaches the necessary volume.
All training is currently delivered via teleconference, usually Skype, and supplemented with some kind of graphical interaction depending on the student's objectives. For example, some lessons involve game replay review, others theory discussion, and yet others live gameplay with the coach. Lesson plans are provided to students as part of the booking process, and there is always an opportunity to ask questions.
Coaching rates depend on the ability and experience of the coach, as well as demand for their services. One-hour one-on-one coaching sessions range from US$15 to US$100.
GS AU: Why do you think it's important to make competitive gaming accessible to everyone?
BT: There have been multiple studies conducted which suggest competitive sports are positive for the self-esteem and mental well-being for children and young adults. Similarly, emerging research also suggests video gaming itself has positive psychological effects, which train individuals to be cooperative and cope better with failure, alongside the ego-boosting effects of epic wins.
We see e-sports as a way to bring these benefits together, particularly when everyone can participate in this sport. For instance, we're working on building relationships with disability groups to see how we can take these positive psychological experiences to those that are potentially less physically capable to participate in things like sports and other social activities.
GS AU: How did you go about selecting the coaches, and how did you get them involved?
BT: We select our GI Pros based on their reputation. The market then selects their services for one-on-one coaching based on the quality of their instructional videos and their areas of expertise. Finding avenues of communications with the best gamers was daunting at first, and continues to be challenging at times. However, we continue to build relationships and networks with competition organisers, game writers, peripheral makers, and others within the e-sports ecosystem to help us connect with these individuals.
Our process of converting interest to signed GI Pros has been quite rigorous to date. Daniel spends a lot of his time working with the prospective professional gamers prior to signing on board as we recognise the best players may not necessarily be the best teachers. Once we feel comfortable with their ability to create a good-quality instructional video, we very much let the professional gamers work. The only interjection we make from time to time is recommendations on the structure of a successful educational and training video. Following sign-off of the videos, they are placed on our website for member viewing. Members then choose to use the one-on-one coaching services from respective GI Pros based on their interest in these video lessons.
GS AU: How has business gone so far? Is it growing?
BT: It is still early days for us, but we've received a significant level of interest from the League of Legends and gaming community globally. We've already had interest from professionals from other games wanting to be part of our GI Pro faculty in expanding our game title coverage.
Some game publishers and peripheral makers have also reached out as they see significant advantages strategically of the gaming audience we're amalgamating. All these signs are very encouraging for us in these very early stages.
GS AU: Any success stories that have come out of the coaching? What has some of the feedback from students been like?
BT: We've had some excellent early feedback from our students so far. Many appreciate the insight that the GI Pros are able to impart on them, pointing out specific areas to work on much like homework. Some have even booked multiple lessons on a weekly basis.
GS AU: What is your overall aim with the school, and what are your future plans (that is, expanding internationally, and so on)?
BT: We are very much international in scope. Much of our traffic for the videos and the one-on-one tutorial lesson bookings are from the US. In terms of expansion, we are focusing on the one game title at the moment: League of Legends. Our aim is to quickly develop a following and expand to a number of popular titles. We've got the target of having five games by the end of the year.
The long-term goal is to expand the pro career possibility of any and all young gamers, both helping these individuals explore opportunities to supplement their income through providing education for others, but also ultimately allowing them to get better quicker, develop competitive relationships, and have clear sight of the pinnacle.
hah LoL. Why not Hon which has mentoring system since last year? Connect to a player and give him advice live.
I might take a few casual lessons for the purpose of becoming competent. I have never played LoL for example, and I'd enjoy learning from someone good. BUT, people who believe they can take lessons and then make a career out of playing video games are kidding themselves.
they make almost no games today worthy of professional involvement. Everything is made for noobs these days.
Rather they pay to learn the game then to be a douche buy a leveled account and not know what the hell they are doing.
Haha I laugh at all the people acting like making money from gaming is something new. If you need to be educated check out the lengths Korean gamers will go to win Starcraft tournaments when prize money is $500 000, I wouldn't see any problem paying mortages or raising a family with that kind of money.. Would you? And sure why not turn gaming into a sport, don't go hating on an institute because they came up with the idea first there is obviously a demand for something like this and so they catered. I'm sure the same haters punched themselves in the face when other passtimes became proffessional sports offering big money to be the best! #sh!tchangesgetoverit
Good luck paying your mortgage, raising a family, and planning for retirement with your pro-gamer career. Seriously people?
Oh wait, i forgot to say something very important. So important and serious that it should be also featured in Gamespot. You want to learn how to urinate like a PRO? You want to never spill a drop,with eyes closed, hands tied, and standing on your toes? Or you just want to learn the basics? Now you can in Urinating Institute! We're offering low prices and special family and pet packages! Don't miss it!
Paying someone to get your 2 chars to a certain,or cap, lvl so that you can pvp with your friends, because you dont want to spend an eternity grinding or because you simply dont have the time to? OK (sometimes its a money saver too) Paying someone to get your 10 supercool characters to cap lvl so that you can showoff your superspecial armors and weapons?and say HUEHUEHUE to everyone? ACCEPTABLE xD Paying someone to teach you how to play League of Legends?! WHAaaa........?!
Hehe No point learning... it's mostly Trial and Error If Not, Google/Youtube is always a good source to find new ways to beat your enemys... IF you can pull it off
To let others teach you how to play a game is like letting them teach you how to fall in love... Of course, it depends on the approach to the very concept of what a game is/should be, but still... The only pro gamers, in my opinion, are those that have fun, no negative side effects. Period. Bragging in front of friends for a game?! Are some that pathetic??...
This is so sad, its not even funny. Reminds me of those scam schools promising to help kids get into the nfl or college football.
most pro-gamers didn't need to enroll in a school dedicated to gaming...
some learnt on their own, or with friends, while others simply frequented a gaming community/computer shop where they polished their skills
League of Legends really isn't THAT hard to master; you just need a lot of time for practice to excel at it. Like most things in life...
I don't understand why some would dislike this. My parents paid for me to have tennis lessons when I was younger. Almost got started in a tournament. Not once did I consider "going pro" but I love knowing that I know how to play tennis. So if people want to be taught to play a certain game well then more power to them. I feel some are just going to become more jealous when they get beat by someone that had professional training.
Alot of people also think it's a good idea to go to Bible School, but we all know how seriously the working, professional world takes them...
@Fandango_Letho "Trash community of disrespectful, vulgar nerds. No thanks." ^This. Quite possibly the worst community in gaming.
Any gamer worth his salt can learn a game without paying money to learn from a pro. Especially LoL, which I play regularly. Just play the game, learn, watch streams if you want, and there you go. No money required.
I certainly don't want to play anything like League of Legends. Trash community of disrespectful, vulgar nerds. No thanks.
If pro gaming takes off, I can see this doing really well. League of Legends is the perfect cash cow for this too. There's millions of average players wanting to get better. They can read strategies and practice a lot on their own, but some people just want some one on one instruction.
Instead of going to college to get a proper education, we can go to a pro gaming school to learn how to improve our gaming skills. I'd love to put that on my resume. Seriously, - 1 humanity.
Wow, that is...rediculous. I can think of a lot more productive ways to spend $15-$100 an hour... Gaming is a sport like poker is a sport, I love poker but I don't watch ESPN poker world series. Can't wait for the Starcraft Super Bowl. Soon every state will be scouring for potential recruits for the Dallas compstomper or the California allyourbasearebelongtous... It's good you want to improve in something I suppose, but could we improve in something a little more productive? A real education perhaps? "I don't want to go to college mom, I want to play LoL gooder than the rest of everyone."
Don't we just use wiki or gamefaqs for tips? Well, if there is money to be make, that's all that matters.
i dont know if this is the same with the one in south korea before but they have the goal where in students make a career in gaming specially during the time of Ragnarok and starcraft
This has been done for yeaaaaars now Not just for DotA, but Starcraft:BW and Starcraft 2, Quake, Counterstrike, .... This is not even close to a 'innovative idea'...
Next we will be calling pro-gamers athelete. I don't buy into this one bit, but I do say that captilsim is a beautiful thing and if you can make money teaching people to be better gamers, good for those three Aussies.
That is a really innovative idea - I'm interested to see what other titles they decide to expand into
I game to have fun, relax, and to zone out from my mundane world. Gaming is my drug of choice. Trying to 'go pro' would ruin it for me. V^^^^V
@Flamga - I see your point. I guess my problem is wrapping my head around people who take their video games that seriously. I am a big gamer myself but I never think of it ad anything more then a hobby but again, that's my thought on it. You study hard to get good grades and graduate. You get better at football to make the pros. I don't see any pay off to being the best gamer other then self satisfaction...aside from other "pro" gamers, no one would even understand why its even something to brag about.
You are entitled to your opinion, but its just like every other activity/hobby/whatever you want to call it, even niche or esport or career path for some. I would ask the same thing of everyone here of any other activity, would you pay for 1on1 lessons in any other sport if you were not serious about it? Probably not. Thing is gaming is very competitive, its easily accessible for anybody with an internet connection and anyone can compete at a decent level. Only the best of the best can make the money in any said game, and being in the top 2% of players? Well to make the jump to the top 1% and above, you either need natural talent, skill and lots of time to figure it out, or help from someone better than you, and its never something simple. Perfecting the craft of most games takes many many hours and the dedication of anyone that would go for this sort of thing is admirable. Just like any footballers train for their sport or a student studying to get 100% for their marks. To be the best you train with the best, and this gives those people their opportunity.
I may be alone but I find it laughable that folks who spend a ton of time playing video games are called "professional e-sport players". I just feel like its trying to hard to legitimize video games as some kind of actual sport.
If this company wants to go far it needs to add Starcraft, one of the few games that requires mad skills to go pro. And there are lots of players spending up to develop those skills. It makes me happy to know eSports is finally gaining traction in Australia. We still have a long way to go however 2012 is going to be a big year!
@GuitarNotHero It isn't the same. Having one on one training helps a lot. I am a good player at League but not great. I know that I have learned a lot from playing with pro players. Jut the little advice I get from players in the top 20 when I play with them helps me out a lot and lets me learn more than many videos. Other people can see what you are doing wrong. You can watch someone play and learn some things from that, but a lot of people have a hard time really noticing what they do and how they may make mistakes and that is just part of human nature.
Seriously? Pay to learn how to be good at video games? Who would do that? I've seen a lot of poor players out there, but I don't know any that would be willing to pay money to be learn how to be a good gamer. I wish this company luck, but I don't see a way this will succeed.