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eSports and publishing: maintaining a competitive edge

eSports and publishing might seem worlds apart but, as former Olympic coach and eSports psychologist Mia Stellberg explains, rapidly changing marketplaces, technological disruption and the need to maintain a competitive edge mean they have more in common than you might think…

***Join us at the FIPP World Media Congress, taking place from 12-14 November 2019 in Las Vegas, to hear Mia Stellberg present her session on what you can learn from Olympians and e-sports stars. Register before 25 September for discounted delegate rates. View the full agenda here.***

What relevance does eSports have to the world of media and why is it interesting for attendees to the FIPP World Media Congress?

Obviously, eSports is growing at a rapid pace. In fact, it’s the fastest-growing sport right now in terms of viewers, sponsorship and media attention. It is evolving and although the make up of the audience is quite diverse, it has a lot of the hard-to-reach youth that many advertisers are keen to reach. So in that sense, there is a great opportunity to understand the audiences, how to reach them and what motivates them. On the other hand, the sector is changing in many of the same ways as the media industry, so it’s also interesting to explore how eSports has embraced change, how it’s transformed the skills and mindsets required for the future, and how it has found competitive advantage.

Tell us about your background and how you have been helping with many of the issues you set out above…

 After beginning my career in traditional sports, including work with Finland’s Olympic dressage team, I switched to eSports in late summer 2016 after being approached by Astralis, the professional Counter-Strike Team. I soon understood that athletes from different disciplines shared many of the same mental challenges. With Astralis, my focus on well-being, on attitude and on desire took the Danish team from serial runners-up to the best team in the world. I’m now working with SK Gaming, a team that has attracted sponsorship from brands including Mercedes-Benz and Deutsche Telekom. So, I have really grasped the different requirements and psychological challenges between eSports and traditional sports – and now I want to explore those issues in the context of other industries that I also think can benefit.

What are some of those challenges and some of the areas the publishing industry can learn from eSports and traditional sports? 

Let’s start with an obvious difference between eSports and traditional sports – which I can see is also a relevant for publishers. With traditional sports, you will often have a very clear and long-term path set out in front of you. You may start to show potential at a young age and receive some coaching, progress through the ranks and age groups, have a lengthy career in that sport and the maybe become a coach yourself. That’s a long, clear path, with little disruption and long-term aims. With eSports, it’s very different. You may do it as a hobby, then join an amateur club and then only have a very small career in it – maybe just a few years. That requires a different mindset – you have to be far more adaptable, hone new skills, manage your career in smaller chunks, deal with uncertainty and deal with disruption. Those are many of the issue facing people in publishing today. You used to have clear career paths and things kind of just moved along that path. But now there is huge disruption and nothing is certain anymore – so you have to manage that. I am passionate about player wellbeing and the challenges faced by those in eSports are similar to those that people in your industry face today. So that’s something we should explore. We should look at performance management, skills, leadership, how you get the most out of people, how you help them adapt, how you manage them.

What other lessons are there for the publishing industry?

There are lots. Performance is more important than ever in the fast-changing world of publishing. Digital and technological disruption is another – eSports was born out of technological disruption and so were many of the elements of publishing today. Increased competition is another one. Look at how hard it is to find a competitive edge now in the complex and competitive marketplace. Players can improve the overall performance. That is something that can be learnt and influenced from sport too. Adaptation is something that is a big thing in both arenas too – having the skills to adapt as well as stress and pressure control.

Those things will benefit the organisations. What else do you talk about that can help individuals?

Self-image is a really important thing right now. It is important in terms of being a better leader – the way you portray yourself and the way others view you based on how you act and the image you give off. But another area I am really interested in right now is that people should be more aware of themselves and their contribution to the team they are in. Dynamics between people are crucial these days – so it’s all the more important how you position yourself and manage relationships. And that goes beyond the physical representation of yourself in the work environment. It’s about how you conduct yourself on social channels and your social profile. The other interesting area related to that is communication. The best players in eSports are the ones that are the strongest communicators and I am sure that is the same in the publishing business. So we look at that too.

Written by Jon Watkins.

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