Skip to main content

A Spotlight on Esports: a Q&A with Sam Cooke, Esports Insider

A guest at UAL Awarding Body's Teach Inspire Create Conference 2024 using a VR headset
  • Written bySam Cooke
  • Published date 08 January 2024
A guest at UAL Awarding Body's Teach Inspire Create Conference 2024 using a VR headset
Teach Inspire Create Conference 2024, copyright: Vibes Art LTD

Ahead of our esports spotlight event, we spoke to Sam Cooke, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Esports Insider, about careers in the esports industry and how teachers can support students interested in pursuing esports.

Can you tell us what a standard day looks like for you as Managing Director at Esports Insider?

The days really do vary, we're quite a small team at ESI given the breadth and depth of what we do, meaning I'm kept at quite constant state of busy; but I truly do love it. Given what we do there's quite a lot of travel, as I write this I'm just back from ten days in Seoul and Busan for an event, and in a few days I'll be in Berlin for key client meetings. This year I've travelled to 10+ countries for work!

A more standard day will include catching up on emails, check-ins with the team across Media, Events, Sales, Marketing, and Design, calls with clients and partners (both existing and prospective), sales proposals, and product / event planning and ideation - an area I particularly enjoy.

What are the pathways/opportunities for students doing an esports qualification? What are the career opportunities within the esports industry?

If the focus is on working within the esports sector itself, I'd always encourage focusing on an area or select areas you enjoy/have strengths in, be it marketing, design, sales or something else.
For instance, every professional esports team will need sales, operations, finance, marketing, social media, design, and of course, coaches and players, and some will have more specialists within and beyond these areas, and moreover every esports company will need these roles minus the coaches and players. Consider too that many esports companies still require the wearing of multiple hats, so being multifaceted or a 'Swiss army knife' is indeed a strength, just try not to let it become your speciality, and ensure you avoid being stretched too thin.

Make sure you don't get too laser focused too, the esports sector isn't going anywhere, it's still quite a niche sector within gaming, meaning jobs are not overly plentiful, but it'll still be around once you've got some good experience in your desired area(s) and established for sure what it is you want to do and where your strengths lie.

What do you think are the key skills that students can develop from studying an esports qualification?

I think there's a lot of useful and transferable skills students can learn from studying esports and getting practical and hands on with it, especially in regards to live production, and more broadly team ops and event operations. If you can run a successful tournament with multiple teams and emerge unscathed, then the sky's the limit!

How do you think schools and colleges can support students interested in pursuing esports careers?

Offer them the opportunity and chance to create and run their own teams, events, tournaments and more. This would mean, in an ideal world, creating the physical spaces with the right equipment (PCs, headsets, etc.) to enable them to do this, it's easier and can be far more inexpensive than you're thinking, I promise! Moreover the return on this investment will amaze you, and these spaces and equipment are of course far more versatile than just utilisation for esports.

Create connections with other colleges and schools in your local area that are engaged in or looking into esports, and nationally too. Get in touch directly with industry, form strong connections and try to organise a talk or two from those currently working in the space in different positions to offer advice but also just to hear from them about the reality of their roles and their day to day. Does your local football club do anything gaming/esports wise? They might, or if not, I bet they've considered it, reach out to them. Come and speak to us about any and all of this; we have our Next Gen events, and offer numerous services to colleges and schools both directly from ESI and from partners.

What will you be speaking about at our esports spotlight event?

Are there no surprises anymore, come and find out!

A teaser though, I'll discuss Esports in Bloom, and look at whilst a lot of the narrative right now has been around 'Esports Winter' and it being a tough, turbulent period for the sector amidst a market correction and a lot of downsizing, lay offs, etc. (especially in NA), that Spring awaits, and there's plenty of reasons to be optimistic with awareness and viewership growth, new games, diversification and new models, and how we can build best towards that Spring coming sooner than later.

That was more reveal than teaser, but so be it. Thanks for reading and see you on 9 February!

Join us at 'A Spotlight on Esports' on 9 February 2024 to learn more about our Creative Media Production and Technology qualifications and hear from Sam Cooke about the industry's challenges and opportunities. Also, get involved in the workshop 'Esports Teaching in Further Education', delivered by Lizzie Squires of Vulpine Esports and UAL Program Lead at HSDC, Andy Moss. They will be discussing innovative ideas and aspects of teaching the UAL esports pathway that will engage, inform and give examples of how best to connect with esports students.