Esports event organising during the pandemic: It’s a tall order

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Putting together an esports event in the midst of a global pandemic is a tall order. Although online events are currently on the rise due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, watching a tournament purely online, with the lack of crowds to create the atmosphere and spend money, is still very much what esports event organisers want to avoid.

Take the ongoing TI10 for example. Despite actually selling tickets for fans to watch the world’s most lucrative esports tournament live, Valve had to change tack, refund tickets sales and make do with zero audience in the name of public safety.

And we thought we had beaten Covid-19! 

Last year, many high-profile tournaments involving titles such as League of Legends, Apex Legends, Hearthstone, Call of Duty and Fortnite were either postponed or cancelled. Fan gatherings at Twitchcon and Blizzcon were also affected.

There was hope with Europe opening up in the summer, that we could finally see big esports crowds return for T10. But the high number of Covid cases meant that crowds will still have to wait – even after close to two years!

With the marquee events still yet to open up, the situation is pretty much the same for other esports tournaments, big or small, around the world. 

The challenge for esports tournament organisers is to try and make smaller events work in an online format – at times when the infrastructure may not be ideal.

Some of the common challenges include having a strong and reliable internet connection at home (with so many people working from home, internet speeds have been affected) and taking preventative steps to prevent cheating. These are just some of the things an esports event organiser has to look at.

The scope of work for event organisers varies between 4 main areas: logistics, operations, content, and production. Working within the budget is a key necessity when managing all these areas at the same time. They are responsible for ensuring that operations run smoothly and nothing falls out of place.

“When it comes to budgeting, I would usually need to account for 10% to 20% more expenses, to cover extra costs for unforeseen situations such as needing additional equipment or manpower.” said Lawson Lee, Director of Operations at The Gym Esportscentre.

Having done events at cyber cafes and malls, his team were forced to do many events purely online over the last year. His team is currently involved in the production of the Mobile Legends Professional League Singapore (MPLSG), where teams can compete on site, but without spectators. Each MPLSG season takes just over a month to complete. But it takes months of work to plan and execute the event smoothly, ensuring that every small detail is addressed and taken care of. 

When it is time for the actual event, everything happens in an instant, so much so that every small detail contributes to the overall successful execution of the event.

Part of the job of an event organiser is to also ensure that he works well with his freelance team of ushers, makeup artists, casters, and many more. The events and esports industry relies quite a bit on the freelance community.

Said Lawson: “Many events are now done online or behind closed doors due to the Covid situation. I guess job opportunities in this industry have also declined due to the lack of onsite events.”

A freelancer’s rate is left up to the market to dictate, though bigger projects generally have more budget for freelancers. 

It often is a fine balance between giving a fair wage to freelancers and also keeping an eye on the bottomline. 

Lawson however will not compromise on quality. For example, for MPLSG, four casters are used per day on a 6-hour slot to ensure casters are fresh for the stream. There are other organisers who opt to have their casters do 12-hour shifts. 

But despite the best intentions, there will be freelancers who might feel that they are being paid too little by event organisers. Lawson said that it requires a little mutual understanding from both sides to come to a compromise. 

His advice to newcomers in the esports industry? 

“Be open to changes, and always go the extra mile,” he shares. 

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