How esports became a way of life for this Canadian gamer

How esports became a way of life for this Canadian gamer


'Strange to think it all started as a hobby,' says Benton Chan

By Benton Chan for CBC Sports
October 18, 2017
 

I am an esports player, coach, content creator, and sometimes go by the name of “itzBolt.”

Canadian Benton Chan has found a thriving career in esports. (Submitted by Vivian Chung/UBC eSports Association) Canadian Benton Chan has found a thriving career in esports. (Submitted by Vivian Chung/UBC eSports Association)

Esports features video games that are played at a competitive level and involves an audience of spectators. There are different ways to get involved in esports, and one path may lead to another. The base for esports is that there are players who compete at a high level of skill, organizers who run events and tournaments, and spectators who bring in viewership and interest in the scene.

However, esports branches out much further than what I just mentioned, there are also sponsors who help bring players across the country and even sometimes across the globe to compete, managers who take care of their players so that they are on top of their game, and the list goes on. There’s a wide range of jobs in the world of esports and every role is essential in keeping the scene alive.

 

My introduction to esports came in my last year of high school. A bunch of my friends were playing a game called League of Legends, which is one of the biggest titles in esports to date. Although I wasn’t very good at this game, I was hooked and was constantly playing with friends. At this moment in time, most of my involvement with esports was mainly as a spectator and event organizer.

Top gamers earn millions and events pack stadiums much like pro sports.
 

Minions and spells

It wasn’t until December of 2013 that I started really getting into esports. I had received a closed beta key (a code to access advance copies of games) for Hearthstone - a collectible card game made by Blizzard that was originally inspired by World of Warcraft.

Chan is meticulous when implementing a gaming strategy. (Submitted by Pulselabz) Chan is meticulous when implementing a gaming strategy. (Submitted by Pulselabz)

Players select a class to represent, each with different hero ability, and unique minions and spells that define their class. Each game consists of a 30-card deck that is built by the player with the purpose of bringing the opponents’ health down to zero. I was ecstatic to finally be able to play this game. I had been watching many different people play the game through Twitch, which is the world leading streaming platform for games.

Tutors charge an hourly fee to teach students English, math and other school subjects, but the concept of paid tutoring for an online game was fairly new.

On Twitch you will find different live streams, ranging from broadcasters in their own home to tournament coverage at large events. By meticulously watching my favourite broadcasters before even getting the game myself, I was able to implement different strategies into my own gameplay to give myself a competitive advantage.

 

I was placing well in online tournaments and doing well on the ranked ladder system. At the time I was also getting involved with the competitive community, being one of the few moderators for the Competitive Hearthstone subreddit.

This section of Reddit is dedicated to helping players get better at the game and improve their own play. Many of the posts on this subreddit features different guides written or filmed by content creators or players who want to hold different discussions on the game. I enjoyed helping others get better, which prompted me to start writing different guides on the varying strategies involved in the game.

I remember that a couple of people messaged me about coaching, and that they were willing to pay for sessions. Tutors charge an hourly fee to teach students English, math and other school subjects, but the concept of paid tutoring for an online game was fairly new. What started out as a handful of clients began to grow to a lot more once I started advertising this service on reddit and my other social media avenues.

 

Coaching players was a good side job for me while I was attending UBC for my undergraduate degree in kinesiology. My clients had a wide range of age and skill levels. My youngest client was probably in their early teenage years and I have had clients in their 50s enjoying the game and just wanting to get better.

 
 

Evolution of coaching

I have coached players all over North America, Europe and Southest Asia. This is very easy to do, since all I need is to call them over the internet and then spectate their game. What generally happens in a coaching session is that I will ask the player what they think the right play would be, and then I talk through my own thoughts and reasoning behind my suggested play. By asking thought-provoking and guiding questions, students are able to come up with a solution for themselves, which leads to better understanding for the present and future.

Interviews are nothing new to Chan. (Submitted by Vivian Chung/UBC eSports Association) Interviews are nothing new to Chan. (Submitted by Vivian Chung/UBC eSports Association)

Students are encouraged to ask questions throughout the session, and I am always open to post-session questions as well. Coaching has come a long way in the last two years. It has become a lot more popular. Two years ago I would post my advertisement, someone would message me and then we would figure out a time that worked for the both of us. I am currently working with a growing company called Gamer Sensei. Players who are interested in coaching are able to find my profile and book a session if it falls within my availability.

When I’m meeting people for the first time, I tell them that I play video games competitively and sometimes even get to travel in order to do so. This always prompts a lot of questions, because for most people, this concept is still very new. When I bring up that I also professionally coach students online, they always laugh and tell me how great that is, and that it must be a wonderful job. I definitely didn’t see myself doing any of these things a couple of years ago.

 

Now I am working with a company to promote my coaching services, working with a new local gaming chair company called Pulselabz and travelling to many different cities in order to compete and attend conventions. Esports has given me a multitude of opportunities, and has shaped who I am today.

Strange to think it all started as a hobby.

(Large photos submitted by Vivian Chung/UBC eSports Association)

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