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Esports Education: Navigating the Career Path with James Fraser-Murison and Scott Byrne-Fraser

Join James Fraser-Murison and Scott Byrne-Fraser as they explore the dynamic intersection between esports and education. They discuss the skills necessary to succeed in esports, the BTEC program's diverse modules, and the importance of working. More than just games, it's an exploration of an innovative world where education meets opportunity!

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Scott: Hello and welcome to another fantastic conversation in our esports special this month. I'm Scott Van Fraser and I'm the technical co founder of Ondo. And today I am delighted to be joined by James Fraser Murrison, who is our one head of education, but also has a wealth of knowledge. Our background and experience in the e sports sector and education.

Scott: So hi, James. Welcome. 

James: Hi, Scott. Um, nice to see you again, my friend. Um, and, uh, thank you for this great opportunity to talk about all the kind of wonderful things that's happening with specifically Hundo and education and this career comp, an opportunity to talk about e sports. Um, so I've been teaching or within education for about 22 years now.

James: I think that's why I look so old. And, um, I've been in sort of senior leadership and middle management roles and for the last few years, specifically, um, been working with e sports and an education kind of filter on, uh, I was very fortunate enough to have been asked by Pearson and the British e sports federation to write some units for the first ever e sports BTEC, uh, which was launched in 2020, I believe.

James: And. That's opened up lots of different avenues and opportunities for me. I'm a national award winner now for innovation off the back of that and have lots of fun running around the country and beyond. Um, convincing senior stakeholders and senior leaders that esports and education is definitely a thing.

James: Uh, and it's, um, a really good opportunity to include young people into all the different opportunities with esports and the industry. Fantastic. 

Scott: So going way back, can you talk about your journey? Into esports, you know, when you first came, became aware of it, how you took those first steps into one esports industry as a whole, but then the education side of it.

James: Yeah, sure. So, um, I think it was, it was around 2019 where I was in a classroom. And I let my students go for a break, uh, apparently I have to do that from time to time. Uh, so, um, instead of, instead of them all rushing off to, um, a vending machine or what have you, they, an awful lot of them just jumped on Twitch, which is, in essence, a platform for kind of watching pre recorded or live gameplay from other people.

James: And unsurprisingly, it's a very popular, um, program. And I was got these, these conversations going with students and going, well, you know, I'm, I'm 41. I count myself as a gamer and I have been gaming for a long time. I had an Amiga and these students are also gamers and they've also got this huge interest in the e sports industry.

James: Some of them just generally like to watch gameplay. They're not, they don't game themselves. They just like it. And I thought, okay, well, there's some obvious synergy here. There's some obvious links. Right, exactly. 500 plus, that was, that's how we got it all started. Um. And so all I said to these students as well, look, we've got some really good PCs here at college, here at QMC where I'm at for a couple of days a week.

James: So why don't we put a club on, a gaming club on and see who wants to turn up. And funnily enough, um, it proved to be the most popular enrichment. Opportunity that we had. So, um, started off with one session a week. And by the end of the month, we had to put on several sessions a week. And some students wanted to stay after college to just game with them, with their mates, and that brought the attention of, of Pearson, as I said, um, and the British Esports Federation.

James: And I was very lucky to be invited at the end of 2019. To effectively with a few others in the country be put into an incredibly posh hotel locked in there for a few days and told that I can't leave until we've written a course, uh, which we did that was launched, um, in the early 2020, which is when COVID hit.

James: Um, and I think that kind of says an awful lot about the fact that we were able to launch a national. During a pandemic where there was really good sign up. And I think what, um, if there's, you know, anything positive from, from the pandemic is that it showed how gaming and a community can come from that as a positive and have an educational.

James: Framework around that. And then it's just gone from strength to strength. 

Scott: It's almost like the perfect storm, isn't it? With COVID everybody being locked down already engaged into its loads and then realizing they can actually make a career out of that, which I guess many students hadn't realized at that point that that even was an option.

Scott: You know, so in, in the context of. the education side of it, you know, what skills and knowledge are crucial for students to be building or to prepare themselves for a career in esports? 

James: Um, well, I, I have, you know, as I said, I've been very fortunate enough to give a lot of talks to educational and industry folk who don't necessarily see the obvious.

James: link between e sports and education. So I always start off by saying, well, you know, don't focus too much on the e sports bit at this stage. Focus on the fact that you've clearly got a student body that I've got an interest and a passion in something. It's always a good place to start, right? In this case, it's e sports and gaming.

James: You then look at the kind of. The money, uh, around this industry, sports and gaming. And it's depending on what you read, you can say anything for 1. 5 billion dollars, right? So now you've got something that is exciting for students. There's clearly a huge industry around it and therefore to bring in an educational framework around that makes sense.

James: Because I'll always say that as a teacher, our job is to. Teach and train students for something that that's big in an industry where they will clearly be job opportunities, which is of course what this is. So all of those things kind of help with, with the message to senior leaders, stakeholders, and, and what have you.

James: And because it's such an exciting industry, because all of these students will game at home anyway, to be able to put kind of enrichment clubs and societies around that and bring in a course, it was a lot easier to sell, I think, than a lot of us necessarily anticipated. Um, mainly because an awful lot of principals and headteachers will probably have their own sons or daughters or grandchildren, regardless of their age, probably game on top of that as well, so they can see the kind of synergy there and the direction of travel.

Scott: Yeah, makes sense. It makes sense. So they will instantaneously see the value of it. When their children will say, actually, yes, I would do that. That does make an, an, an absolutely huge, huge difference. And then, so you mentioned how the BTEC got involved in this or that, that frame you started work on the BTEC.

Scott: Um, you know, can you explain the role of that qualification and how it helps support students into a career in esports or the broader, the broader industry? 

James: Yeah, absolutely. So, um. What we say, um, or certainly what I say to those that are interested, whether that's student or parent or other is that the, the e sports of BTEC, which is a two year course that we run at level three, uh, has no exams.

James: But it is a continually assessed kind of rolling program every four, five, six weeks works handed in it's assessed to come back. The idea was that we kind of focused on a traditional sports background, a traditional creative media background, a traditional business background, um, and then also e sports specific units as well.

James: So that when they left us at the end of two years. Students now would have an online portfolio in a variety of skills and interests, as opposed to one specific kind of area of that industry. And so that makes it a little bit more exciting to have constantly different themes and topics, but also it's a little bit more appealing for employers because they can see, well, you did a bit of this, you did a bit of this, did a bit of this, and then.

James: There's a rise of e sports degrees and hybrid programs. So then again, it's an opportunity for students to leave beyond the BTEC to go and do something a little bit more narrow or specific really. And yeah. And you know, the world economic forum, uh, predicts that for 2025, 2030 skills, such as communication, problem solving, team building, and logistics are four of the top 10 sought after skills.

James: And if students were to engage in e sports and gaming. They will naturally improve those skills by the very nature of the subject and the industry. So I'm not saying that every student who does an esports BTEC is going to go and work for a Google or an Amazon or a FTSE 100. But they will improve some skills that are necessary for a modern day workplace.

James: And that's great. That's what it's all about. 

Scott: Absolutely. Absolutely. And I was actually going to lead on to my next question, you know, so over the course of those two years. And all of the different modules, you know, what type of skills are they learning throughout that? You mentioned communication, you mentioned team building, you mentioned logistics, obviously, because, you know, it's event based, so you're, you're bringing people into a space.

Scott: You know, what else are they covering in those two years? 

James: So, um, if they were to do the full level three program over two years, there's 20 units to, to kind of potentially be, be taught. And some of them will be computer networking, some of them will be elements of game design. Uh, there'll be creating your own LAN event, which is huge business in the esports land.

James: Uh, there's legal and ethical issues. There's mandatory units on. Mental and physical wellbeing, because we take that very seriously. If we're, if we're saying you want to get into an e sports industry and be, you know, the best of the best, then an awful lot, not everyone, but an awful lot of the best of the best, um, they're effectively athletes, they deal with marginal gains, so that means they eat properly and they sleep and they sleep properly and they get up at sensible times and they have a nice routine and, you know, and they practice and the difference between.

James: Gold or silver or first and second is those, are those marginal gains, those split seconds, those reaction times. And that's the kind of the, the elements of the industry that we, that we're able to talk about and showcase. And there's units, specific units, such as shoutcasting, which is, uh, it's effectively commentary, uh, you get to review people's gameplay and stuff.

James: So it's a really unique course that covers an awful lot. Uh, and as I said, the idea is that they, they then go and narrow that focus. Um, when they leave us at maybe degree or apprenticeship or employment. Yeah, I think the diversity 

Scott: of different, different subjects it does cover is, you know, fantastic for preparing somebody for any potential career.

Scott: I think, I know when I've had conversations with people before about eSports, they think about the game, you know, but in some respects, it's like talking about football in terms of just the football player. When actually, there's an entire stadium, there's film cameras, there's events, there's logistics, there's catering, there's legal, there's...

Scott: Sales, commercial marketing, there's a machine around that, which the actual player is a small percentage of actually the overall workforce that is on those projects. Um, so the, the, the breadth of different areas you could then potentially go into is, is huge after, after understanding that space. 

James: Yeah, and, and that, you know, that, that's one of the reasons we, we kind of, you know, in some people's eyes might say it's a bit broad and not specific enough, but that's because it's such a huge issue.

James: You just kind of mentioned, dare I say, traditional film. Making and media and sort of OB techniques and what have you. You're right. If you're going to go and watch a football game this weekend at the Premier League, the 900 different camera placements and, you know, the vision mixing and the sound engineers, you can have an e sports career and be involved in all of those things.

James: The majority of esports careers are not about being a player or a gamer. Again, similar to being, you know, how difficult it could be to be a pro, uh, a pro football player. If you don't make it, you might find yourself into coaching, or team play, or being a physiotherapist, dietitian, or a manager. Same kind of approach really to the e sports industry.

James: It's, it's such a huge, huge kind of area to be involved in. It will cover an awful lot of, of traditional and there are some non traditional opportunities. And that's what makes it so exciting. I think. 

Scott: Absolutely. Absolutely. And I guess my next question is about the. One, the, the significance of being able to get work experience in any of these different fields that we talked about across the e sports space, um, you know, what is the significance of getting that work experience and, you know, specifically towards a hundo, you know, how can we help support people with 

James: it?

James: Absolutely. Um, and as someone who, who still has a teaching hat on for a couple of days a week, I, I see at my college and. Understandably, many other colleges that work experience and career opportunities are still done in an incredibly, I'm not going to say old fashioned, I'll just say traditional manner where, you know, you, you get work experience because of who you know, right?

James: Your mom does this, your dad does this, your mate does that, or careers advice is your march through a sports hall, freezing cold sports hall, and students kind of levitate to the, the desks that have the most amount of maowams, or. Celebrations, scoff all of that. I have no idea who they're really talking to and then leg it.

James: Um, whereas of course, what we're able to do with Hundo is, although there's nothing wrong with the face to face, and that's absolutely saying what we are able to say is because of the way the modern world is working and because of the way that industry is working by moving into a virtual work experience arena and field, we can now give.

James: 50 students, the same opportunity where geographically anywhere in the world, they can now go to, as opposed to, you know, out of those 50 students, two may be able to go and have that opportunity if it wasn't online, because they're fortunate enough to geographically get there or they've got the money to get there.

James: So particularly when you're dealing with one of the biggest industries of I like 0. 4 billion, lots of people want to be involved and there's a huge clamor for it. And what I was able to do last year, um, I was able to kind of create the first ever college program, uh, with a few others, a few other schools and colleges with a company called fanatic or a huge UK e sports industry, 1.

James: 4, 5 million followers on social media been around a long time, very successful. And we created a college program where students. We're able to get meaningful work experience. They beamed in. We set something at the start of the week, they were project based and focused, and it was specific to what the industry was, was asking for.

James: And it was delivered by fanatic. They didn't. Have the time to come out and meet us in, in Basingstoke. We, we met online and it was brilliant because suddenly all of my students, whether they're bursary students, it's a differentiation or accessible, a kind of accessibility issue, they were all catered for and we housed it.

James: And that's, that's what it was about. Those were the successes and those were far more exciting and dynamic and memories and opportunities made from that than how things have gone before. And we've worked with the Duke of Edinburgh to create an e sports program as well. Because again. People are recognizing that this is a huge part of the future.

James: I think a huge part of, of the industry and what Hundo are able to do now is obviously the work that we're doing with Hundo together and the colleges and schools we're working with and, and we'll work for is that we lean into our connections, we lean into our networks. We also know that. Lots and lots of eSports organizations get hundreds of thousands of applicants a month where those students are probably saying look, hey Fnatic, hey Guild, hey XL, I'm a brilliant gamer, I'm platinum at whatever.

James: Great, but they're not looking for gamers. They're looking for people who can do community kind of funds. They can  do social media management. They can create your own LAN events. They can create and curate in their own kind of online metaverse. And so we're helping those students identify that that's the need of the industry, we're working with them for project based opportunities, and then we're saying, look, away you go.

James: And suddenly the industries are getting the right. Type of students, because as I say, they're not all working for, they're not all wanting gamers, hundreds of them, uh, but they're wanting students who've got a different interest in, in the industry. And that's, that's the kind of big win there, I think. Yeah, I think eSports is, 

Scott: the eSports community is naturally well suited towards virtual work experience as well, because there is a grassroots movement of, as you mentioned before, Twitch streamers who are of their own back.

Scott: Showcasing their gaming, uh, they're playing online tournaments already. So there's already a natural tendency towards virtual working, virtual community building, and then being able to tie that into an actual career path. Super, super valuable, um, and really core to what we believe it under, which is to, you know, tap into, um, talent, regardless of where it is, regardless of what the background is, you know, regardless of geographically where you sit or who your parents are, or.

Scott: Where you're going to go to college, it gives you that accessibility to it and being able to then connect you to those businesses and as you say for the likes of Fnatic, gives them a whole different audience that they would never have been able to reach before. Because it's, they would have won, those people might not necessarily have connected directly, but so it really opens up the doors for a 

James: lot of people.

James: Absolutely, and, and we'll, you know, Hondo does the heavy lifting for, for the students and for the employers, but that's because we work closely with both. We know what they need, and we know what they want, and we know what the students have got an interest in, and we're just doing it in a kind of, in a better way that's relevant for a modern day workplace than, as I say, the slightly more traditional approaches that are probably not as popular.

Scott: Yeah, maybe, maybe not as popular. Um, so just changing tack slightly, you know, thinking about eSports tournaments themselves and eSports events themselves. Um, you know, for somebody who hasn't actually watched or partaken in an eSports event, you know, what are the major ones to watch out for? What, um, what are the big games, what are the big events coming up, and how do they operate?

Scott: You know, how can you, how do people get 

James: involved? Well, I mean, there, there, there's many, there's many different tournaments because it's, it's, there's many different games. That's, that's the exciting, um, kind of opportunity here. Um, I think what I, what I say to people with a similar kind of angle to this is, it, it, it is mind blowing in a sense that, I think, I think the most popular esports viewed event is League of Legends.

James: It's just been around for a long time now. And if you look at the overall views and what have you, more people will watch the League of Legends final. Than the super bowl or the world cup, right? And that is that and that's always staggering to some people that something could be worth Something can have over 100 million viewers and be worth 1.

James: 4 billion dollars yet still be niche It's bizarre, isn't it? But the likes of the league of legends final again called counter strike CS2 now out about. These are all done through a variety of different ways of watching and that's again such a wonderful thing to be able to offer the esports community or if you're new and you kind of want to kind of see what all the fuss is about.

James: Your entry level and accessibility options is far easier than if you wanted to watch say Football, because if you want to go and watch the best of the best, you want to go and as a I'm from Surrey So I'm a Man United fan, but they're not the best of the best anymore Anyway, but I remember remember when they were but if you want to go watch Man City, you know It's difficult because all right geography great.

James: Nothing wrong with live sporting event. I love that but there's a cost involved There's a price involved and whatever but to suddenly jump on Twitch to suddenly see something grassroots to suddenly see something where it's the Wednesday championships that take place in an awful lot of schools and colleges in education every Wednesday.

James: That is such an easy way to be involved in your school and your students and your mates and the community and education framework. You then go to semi pro or pro. You look at all of the different opportunities that can come from it. Um, there's a Dota, Dota two tournament. That's always incredibly popular and been around for a long time now as well.

James: And because there's so many different genres of game to go and get involved in, it might be that you don't like. A League of Legends style game, but you like something called Rocket League or, you know, um, Valorant there's different genres of different games for you to go. I don't like that. I'll try that.

James: I don't know that I do that. Whereas if you don't like something like traditional football or rugby, then there isn't really the, the same genre, but alternative. So yeah, rambling a bit here, but it's the fact that there are so many options and. You can just go onto Twitch on your phone, watch a tournament, be heavily involved, see the kind of online community that comes from that and feel probably a little bit easier and a little bit more part of the, that team or that organisation than you would in traditional professional sport like, as I say, football or rugby.

James: It's a lot easier to get involved in. 

Scott: Yeah, absolutely. It's incredibly accessible that way. You know, and if you are, if you're a parent listening now, or you're running a business, you know, and you're listening now and you're thinking about, well, one, how could this be relevant to my children? You know, how could I support them in this direction?

Scott: Or as a business, you know, how could I, how could I be thinking about engaging my next employees and sort of connecting with them? But I just want to learn a bit more about eSports. You know, what's that one place they should go? You know, what should they go and check out now just to start to understand it better?

James: I would, you know, I would always, I'd always start off with, if, with a question to your, your son or daughter as a parent that says, are you a gamer? And even if it's, you know, you might be playing with your youngest on a Switch or something, okay, so it's less eSports y, but it's still an opportunity to have a conversation with, with, gaming and about that.

James: If you've got a young son or daughter, go and see if they do an eSports BTEC, right? Because if they do, there's a very strong chance they'll be involved in the Wednesday Championships by the British eSports Federation. So when I was, when I was young, every Wednesday I'd go and play football on the field and get watched by a few people, get booed by the locals or whatever, um, and then that would be me done until the following Wednesday.

James: Now there is an opportunity for. Friends, colleagues, and parents to watch your son or daughter compete every Wednesday online. You know, we, we have finals that take place in a place called Confetti in Nottingham, which is this beautiful arena where a couple of hundred people will watch live. It's all these students that have got to the finals on stage, but a couple of hundred, sorry, a couple of thousand, it's not quite a hundred thousand yet, will be watching again geographically from all over the world.

James: It's such an easy place to get involved in so quickly that you just say, are you involved in esports? What's your, you know. Are you a gamer? What do you play? Why do you play it? Why do you enjoy it? And I have, I have a now 10 year old and my, my son is fairly kind of monosyllabic when you say, how's your day been at school?

James: How's it fine? Good. Okay, great. Fine. Are you excited about the new Fortnite update that's out today? And away he goes. So you've got to tap into their interest and you will learn so much by that, by that kind of flow of communication and passion and excitement. It is really exciting to be involved in it right now.

Scott: Absolutely. Absolutely. I think if you get that excitement from, you know, you're speaking to your child, you say, What do you think about the fortnight update? And they're really excited about it. I think the key message here is that is brilliant. Exactly. Yeah. But that is brilliant. You know, and it's, it's actually a passion that they can take forward.

Scott: You know, it's a passion that they can take forward and build a career out of. So it's not just a hobby. It's not just a game they're playing. It's, it opens up far more doors and potentially plain sport does, you know, because of, in terms of accessibility. 

James: Well, that, that's the thing. And one of the, you know, as, uh, as I say, I've been in education a while now.

James: This is the first time in terms of an idea to ratification where something is contemporary, it's engaging, it's fun, and it's work relevant. And that doesn't happen in education much. By the time something is contemporary and relevant, by the time paperwork's done and, you know, red tape's done, three or four years have passed, and it's not new, it's not exciting, it's not even fashionable anymore.

James: The very nature of what we're doing with eSports and education and specifically our sort of virtual work experience means that we can be flexible, we can adapt, and we still keep it contemporary, fun and engaging. 

Scott: Absolutely, and I guess, yeah, building on that, you know, what are you most excited about the eSports space in general, you know, aside from the next Fortnite update?

James: Yes, um... I'm excited with my, you know, with my education hat on and, and what have you, I'm excited that more and more people are starting to get it right. So when I started speaking on behalf of Pearson and college and what have you, and I remember giving talks for HP and Lenovo and what have you, where I had to convince people that this is the thing.

James: And now a couple of years on the people I'm giving talks for in the companies, it's less of a. Audience going, sorry, what, what it's more of an audience going. I've heard of this. I get this. Ah, okay. I get it now. So the buy in and the resistance or pushback, however you want to call it. It's far less now, which excites me because therefore there's more opportunity.

James: It's a lot easier for a young person to say, I want to do this. I want to be involved in this industry. Without being laughed at by their mates or their mum or dad, not quite understanding or mum and dad go, no, you're going to go and do further maths and whatever that's fine too, but now there's so much breadth and opportunity that it's exciting to see where, where this will go.

James: And, and the talent that is involved with an education, these young people is immense. It is absolutely immense. And so I'm just excited to see that, that kind of side, just kind of unfold really and see where it goes. 

Scott: Yeah, fantastic. And what games do you play? Yeah, 

James: um, if I get the time. Um, so, I do play Fortnite with my son.

James: I will, I will admit that. We play Fortnite, we do Minecraft, we do Fall Guys. Um, currently watching my son occasionally run around in, not in any sports game, but Jurassic Park Online where he's building up some sort of weird Jurassic Park dinosaur arena and he's gonna spend loads of... Uh, money in there and then he's going to release and go wild and what have you.

James: So fine. Uh, that's good. Um, and myself, when I get the opportunity, uh, on top of that, my friends and I, we will play a pretty, pretty kind of rock standard kind of call of duty war zone, uh, game where we will jump on in and we will talk to each other through our mics. And be far more sociable, uh, whilst we're running around doing the kind of things in Warzone than we ever are normally in real life, we're on the phone to each other, so there's that lovely sort of community element on top of that as well, so that's cool.

Scott: I know exactly what you mean, I can pick up the phone to my brother and we'll have a very quick conversation, it's very, very practical. Um, it comes, it comes around and we, we, we always pull out Mario cart and that's it. We're gone for hours and hours and hours and conversation goes wherever. And, um, you know, I finally come back and realize we've been playing for two hours.

Scott: It's, it's very, very interesting how that can happen. Um, so thank you very much, James. A really, really good conversation. Um, you know, for anybody listening who wants to learn more about e sports or specifically what Hundo does around that area, obviously come to our website, come to hundo. xyz. There, you can sign up for our, um, our newsletter.

Scott: You can also find out details about our upcoming Kickstarter, which is specifically around AI. You can find out details about that. Um, and you can check out more information about our virtual work experience programs as well. So if what we've been talking about has generated some interest, potentially for your children or for your business, uh, you can reach out to us there to find out more about those virtual work experience programs.

Scott: So thank you very much. 

James: Thank you.

VIDEO TRANSCRIPT

Scott: Hello and welcome to another fantastic conversation in our esports special this month. I'm Scott Van Fraser and I'm the technical co founder of Ondo. And today I am delighted to be joined by James Fraser Murrison, who is our one head of education, but also has a wealth of knowledge. Our background and experience in the e sports sector and education.

Scott: So hi, James. Welcome. 

James: Hi, Scott. Um, nice to see you again, my friend. Um, and, uh, thank you for this great opportunity to talk about all the kind of wonderful things that's happening with specifically Hundo and education and this career comp, an opportunity to talk about e sports. Um, so I've been teaching or within education for about 22 years now.

James: I think that's why I look so old. And, um, I've been in sort of senior leadership and middle management roles and for the last few years, specifically, um, been working with e sports and an education kind of filter on, uh, I was very fortunate enough to have been asked by Pearson and the British e sports federation to write some units for the first ever e sports BTEC, uh, which was launched in 2020, I believe.

James: And. That's opened up lots of different avenues and opportunities for me. I'm a national award winner now for innovation off the back of that and have lots of fun running around the country and beyond. Um, convincing senior stakeholders and senior leaders that esports and education is definitely a thing.

James: Uh, and it's, um, a really good opportunity to include young people into all the different opportunities with esports and the industry. Fantastic. 

Scott: So going way back, can you talk about your journey? Into esports, you know, when you first came, became aware of it, how you took those first steps into one esports industry as a whole, but then the education side of it.

James: Yeah, sure. So, um, I think it was, it was around 2019 where I was in a classroom. And I let my students go for a break, uh, apparently I have to do that from time to time. Uh, so, um, instead of, instead of them all rushing off to, um, a vending machine or what have you, they, an awful lot of them just jumped on Twitch, which is, in essence, a platform for kind of watching pre recorded or live gameplay from other people.

James: And unsurprisingly, it's a very popular, um, program. And I was got these, these conversations going with students and going, well, you know, I'm, I'm 41. I count myself as a gamer and I have been gaming for a long time. I had an Amiga and these students are also gamers and they've also got this huge interest in the e sports industry.

James: Some of them just generally like to watch gameplay. They're not, they don't game themselves. They just like it. And I thought, okay, well, there's some obvious synergy here. There's some obvious links. Right, exactly. 500 plus, that was, that's how we got it all started. Um. And so all I said to these students as well, look, we've got some really good PCs here at college, here at QMC where I'm at for a couple of days a week.

James: So why don't we put a club on, a gaming club on and see who wants to turn up. And funnily enough, um, it proved to be the most popular enrichment. Opportunity that we had. So, um, started off with one session a week. And by the end of the month, we had to put on several sessions a week. And some students wanted to stay after college to just game with them, with their mates, and that brought the attention of, of Pearson, as I said, um, and the British Esports Federation.

James: And I was very lucky to be invited at the end of 2019. To effectively with a few others in the country be put into an incredibly posh hotel locked in there for a few days and told that I can't leave until we've written a course, uh, which we did that was launched, um, in the early 2020, which is when COVID hit.

James: Um, and I think that kind of says an awful lot about the fact that we were able to launch a national. During a pandemic where there was really good sign up. And I think what, um, if there's, you know, anything positive from, from the pandemic is that it showed how gaming and a community can come from that as a positive and have an educational.

James: Framework around that. And then it's just gone from strength to strength. 

Scott: It's almost like the perfect storm, isn't it? With COVID everybody being locked down already engaged into its loads and then realizing they can actually make a career out of that, which I guess many students hadn't realized at that point that that even was an option.

Scott: You know, so in, in the context of. the education side of it, you know, what skills and knowledge are crucial for students to be building or to prepare themselves for a career in esports? 

James: Um, well, I, I have, you know, as I said, I've been very fortunate enough to give a lot of talks to educational and industry folk who don't necessarily see the obvious.

James: link between e sports and education. So I always start off by saying, well, you know, don't focus too much on the e sports bit at this stage. Focus on the fact that you've clearly got a student body that I've got an interest and a passion in something. It's always a good place to start, right? In this case, it's e sports and gaming.

James: You then look at the kind of. The money, uh, around this industry, sports and gaming. And it's depending on what you read, you can say anything for 1. 5 billion dollars, right? So now you've got something that is exciting for students. There's clearly a huge industry around it and therefore to bring in an educational framework around that makes sense.

James: Because I'll always say that as a teacher, our job is to. Teach and train students for something that that's big in an industry where they will clearly be job opportunities, which is of course what this is. So all of those things kind of help with, with the message to senior leaders, stakeholders, and, and what have you.

James: And because it's such an exciting industry, because all of these students will game at home anyway, to be able to put kind of enrichment clubs and societies around that and bring in a course, it was a lot easier to sell, I think, than a lot of us necessarily anticipated. Um, mainly because an awful lot of principals and headteachers will probably have their own sons or daughters or grandchildren, regardless of their age, probably game on top of that as well, so they can see the kind of synergy there and the direction of travel.

Scott: Yeah, makes sense. It makes sense. So they will instantaneously see the value of it. When their children will say, actually, yes, I would do that. That does make an, an, an absolutely huge, huge difference. And then, so you mentioned how the BTEC got involved in this or that, that frame you started work on the BTEC.

Scott: Um, you know, can you explain the role of that qualification and how it helps support students into a career in esports or the broader, the broader industry? 

James: Yeah, absolutely. So, um. What we say, um, or certainly what I say to those that are interested, whether that's student or parent or other is that the, the e sports of BTEC, which is a two year course that we run at level three, uh, has no exams.

James: But it is a continually assessed kind of rolling program every four, five, six weeks works handed in it's assessed to come back. The idea was that we kind of focused on a traditional sports background, a traditional creative media background, a traditional business background, um, and then also e sports specific units as well.

James: So that when they left us at the end of two years. Students now would have an online portfolio in a variety of skills and interests, as opposed to one specific kind of area of that industry. And so that makes it a little bit more exciting to have constantly different themes and topics, but also it's a little bit more appealing for employers because they can see, well, you did a bit of this, you did a bit of this, did a bit of this, and then.

James: There's a rise of e sports degrees and hybrid programs. So then again, it's an opportunity for students to leave beyond the BTEC to go and do something a little bit more narrow or specific really. And yeah. And you know, the world economic forum, uh, predicts that for 2025, 2030 skills, such as communication, problem solving, team building, and logistics are four of the top 10 sought after skills.

James: And if students were to engage in e sports and gaming. They will naturally improve those skills by the very nature of the subject and the industry. So I'm not saying that every student who does an esports BTEC is going to go and work for a Google or an Amazon or a FTSE 100. But they will improve some skills that are necessary for a modern day workplace.

James: And that's great. That's what it's all about. 

Scott: Absolutely. Absolutely. And I was actually going to lead on to my next question, you know, so over the course of those two years. And all of the different modules, you know, what type of skills are they learning throughout that? You mentioned communication, you mentioned team building, you mentioned logistics, obviously, because, you know, it's event based, so you're, you're bringing people into a space.

Scott: You know, what else are they covering in those two years? 

James: So, um, if they were to do the full level three program over two years, there's 20 units to, to kind of potentially be, be taught. And some of them will be computer networking, some of them will be elements of game design. Uh, there'll be creating your own LAN event, which is huge business in the esports land.

James: Uh, there's legal and ethical issues. There's mandatory units on. Mental and physical wellbeing, because we take that very seriously. If we're, if we're saying you want to get into an e sports industry and be, you know, the best of the best, then an awful lot, not everyone, but an awful lot of the best of the best, um, they're effectively athletes, they deal with marginal gains, so that means they eat properly and they sleep and they sleep properly and they get up at sensible times and they have a nice routine and, you know, and they practice and the difference between.

James: Gold or silver or first and second is those, are those marginal gains, those split seconds, those reaction times. And that's the kind of the, the elements of the industry that we, that we're able to talk about and showcase. And there's units, specific units, such as shoutcasting, which is, uh, it's effectively commentary, uh, you get to review people's gameplay and stuff.

James: So it's a really unique course that covers an awful lot. Uh, and as I said, the idea is that they, they then go and narrow that focus. Um, when they leave us at maybe degree or apprenticeship or employment. Yeah, I think the diversity 

Scott: of different, different subjects it does cover is, you know, fantastic for preparing somebody for any potential career.

Scott: I think, I know when I've had conversations with people before about eSports, they think about the game, you know, but in some respects, it's like talking about football in terms of just the football player. When actually, there's an entire stadium, there's film cameras, there's events, there's logistics, there's catering, there's legal, there's...

Scott: Sales, commercial marketing, there's a machine around that, which the actual player is a small percentage of actually the overall workforce that is on those projects. Um, so the, the, the breadth of different areas you could then potentially go into is, is huge after, after understanding that space. 

James: Yeah, and, and that, you know, that, that's one of the reasons we, we kind of, you know, in some people's eyes might say it's a bit broad and not specific enough, but that's because it's such a huge issue.

James: You just kind of mentioned, dare I say, traditional film. Making and media and sort of OB techniques and what have you. You're right. If you're going to go and watch a football game this weekend at the Premier League, the 900 different camera placements and, you know, the vision mixing and the sound engineers, you can have an e sports career and be involved in all of those things.

James: The majority of esports careers are not about being a player or a gamer. Again, similar to being, you know, how difficult it could be to be a pro, uh, a pro football player. If you don't make it, you might find yourself into coaching, or team play, or being a physiotherapist, dietitian, or a manager. Same kind of approach really to the e sports industry.

James: It's, it's such a huge, huge kind of area to be involved in. It will cover an awful lot of, of traditional and there are some non traditional opportunities. And that's what makes it so exciting. I think. 

Scott: Absolutely. Absolutely. And I guess my next question is about the. One, the, the significance of being able to get work experience in any of these different fields that we talked about across the e sports space, um, you know, what is the significance of getting that work experience and, you know, specifically towards a hundo, you know, how can we help support people with 

James: it?

James: Absolutely. Um, and as someone who, who still has a teaching hat on for a couple of days a week, I, I see at my college and. Understandably, many other colleges that work experience and career opportunities are still done in an incredibly, I'm not going to say old fashioned, I'll just say traditional manner where, you know, you, you get work experience because of who you know, right?

James: Your mom does this, your dad does this, your mate does that, or careers advice is your march through a sports hall, freezing cold sports hall, and students kind of levitate to the, the desks that have the most amount of maowams, or. Celebrations, scoff all of that. I have no idea who they're really talking to and then leg it.

James: Um, whereas of course, what we're able to do with Hundo is, although there's nothing wrong with the face to face, and that's absolutely saying what we are able to say is because of the way the modern world is working and because of the way that industry is working by moving into a virtual work experience arena and field, we can now give.

James: 50 students, the same opportunity where geographically anywhere in the world, they can now go to, as opposed to, you know, out of those 50 students, two may be able to go and have that opportunity if it wasn't online, because they're fortunate enough to geographically get there or they've got the money to get there.

James: So particularly when you're dealing with one of the biggest industries of I like 0. 4 billion, lots of people want to be involved and there's a huge clamor for it. And what I was able to do last year, um, I was able to kind of create the first ever college program, uh, with a few others, a few other schools and colleges with a company called fanatic or a huge UK e sports industry, 1.

James: 4, 5 million followers on social media been around a long time, very successful. And we created a college program where students. We're able to get meaningful work experience. They beamed in. We set something at the start of the week, they were project based and focused, and it was specific to what the industry was, was asking for.

James: And it was delivered by fanatic. They didn't. Have the time to come out and meet us in, in Basingstoke. We, we met online and it was brilliant because suddenly all of my students, whether they're bursary students, it's a differentiation or accessible, a kind of accessibility issue, they were all catered for and we housed it.

James: And that's, that's what it was about. Those were the successes and those were far more exciting and dynamic and memories and opportunities made from that than how things have gone before. And we've worked with the Duke of Edinburgh to create an e sports program as well. Because again. People are recognizing that this is a huge part of the future.

James: I think a huge part of, of the industry and what Hundo are able to do now is obviously the work that we're doing with Hundo together and the colleges and schools we're working with and, and we'll work for is that we lean into our connections, we lean into our networks. We also know that. Lots and lots of eSports organizations get hundreds of thousands of applicants a month where those students are probably saying look, hey Fnatic, hey Guild, hey XL, I'm a brilliant gamer, I'm platinum at whatever.

James: Great, but they're not looking for gamers. They're looking for people who can do community kind of funds. They can  do social media management. They can create your own LAN events. They can create and curate in their own kind of online metaverse. And so we're helping those students identify that that's the need of the industry, we're working with them for project based opportunities, and then we're saying, look, away you go.

James: And suddenly the industries are getting the right. Type of students, because as I say, they're not all working for, they're not all wanting gamers, hundreds of them, uh, but they're wanting students who've got a different interest in, in the industry. And that's, that's the kind of big win there, I think. Yeah, I think eSports is, 

Scott: the eSports community is naturally well suited towards virtual work experience as well, because there is a grassroots movement of, as you mentioned before, Twitch streamers who are of their own back.

Scott: Showcasing their gaming, uh, they're playing online tournaments already. So there's already a natural tendency towards virtual working, virtual community building, and then being able to tie that into an actual career path. Super, super valuable, um, and really core to what we believe it under, which is to, you know, tap into, um, talent, regardless of where it is, regardless of what the background is, you know, regardless of geographically where you sit or who your parents are, or.

Scott: Where you're going to go to college, it gives you that accessibility to it and being able to then connect you to those businesses and as you say for the likes of Fnatic, gives them a whole different audience that they would never have been able to reach before. Because it's, they would have won, those people might not necessarily have connected directly, but so it really opens up the doors for a 

James: lot of people.

James: Absolutely, and, and we'll, you know, Hondo does the heavy lifting for, for the students and for the employers, but that's because we work closely with both. We know what they need, and we know what they want, and we know what the students have got an interest in, and we're just doing it in a kind of, in a better way that's relevant for a modern day workplace than, as I say, the slightly more traditional approaches that are probably not as popular.

Scott: Yeah, maybe, maybe not as popular. Um, so just changing tack slightly, you know, thinking about eSports tournaments themselves and eSports events themselves. Um, you know, for somebody who hasn't actually watched or partaken in an eSports event, you know, what are the major ones to watch out for? What, um, what are the big games, what are the big events coming up, and how do they operate?

Scott: You know, how can you, how do people get 

James: involved? Well, I mean, there, there, there's many, there's many different tournaments because it's, it's, there's many different games. That's, that's the exciting, um, kind of opportunity here. Um, I think what I, what I say to people with a similar kind of angle to this is, it, it, it is mind blowing in a sense that, I think, I think the most popular esports viewed event is League of Legends.

James: It's just been around for a long time now. And if you look at the overall views and what have you, more people will watch the League of Legends final. Than the super bowl or the world cup, right? And that is that and that's always staggering to some people that something could be worth Something can have over 100 million viewers and be worth 1.

James: 4 billion dollars yet still be niche It's bizarre, isn't it? But the likes of the league of legends final again called counter strike CS2 now out about. These are all done through a variety of different ways of watching and that's again such a wonderful thing to be able to offer the esports community or if you're new and you kind of want to kind of see what all the fuss is about.

James: Your entry level and accessibility options is far easier than if you wanted to watch say Football, because if you want to go and watch the best of the best, you want to go and as a I'm from Surrey So I'm a Man United fan, but they're not the best of the best anymore Anyway, but I remember remember when they were but if you want to go watch Man City, you know It's difficult because all right geography great.

James: Nothing wrong with live sporting event. I love that but there's a cost involved There's a price involved and whatever but to suddenly jump on Twitch to suddenly see something grassroots to suddenly see something where it's the Wednesday championships that take place in an awful lot of schools and colleges in education every Wednesday.

James: That is such an easy way to be involved in your school and your students and your mates and the community and education framework. You then go to semi pro or pro. You look at all of the different opportunities that can come from it. Um, there's a Dota, Dota two tournament. That's always incredibly popular and been around for a long time now as well.

James: And because there's so many different genres of game to go and get involved in, it might be that you don't like. A League of Legends style game, but you like something called Rocket League or, you know, um, Valorant there's different genres of different games for you to go. I don't like that. I'll try that.

James: I don't know that I do that. Whereas if you don't like something like traditional football or rugby, then there isn't really the, the same genre, but alternative. So yeah, rambling a bit here, but it's the fact that there are so many options and. You can just go onto Twitch on your phone, watch a tournament, be heavily involved, see the kind of online community that comes from that and feel probably a little bit easier and a little bit more part of the, that team or that organisation than you would in traditional professional sport like, as I say, football or rugby.

James: It's a lot easier to get involved in. 

Scott: Yeah, absolutely. It's incredibly accessible that way. You know, and if you are, if you're a parent listening now, or you're running a business, you know, and you're listening now and you're thinking about, well, one, how could this be relevant to my children? You know, how could I support them in this direction?

Scott: Or as a business, you know, how could I, how could I be thinking about engaging my next employees and sort of connecting with them? But I just want to learn a bit more about eSports. You know, what's that one place they should go? You know, what should they go and check out now just to start to understand it better?

James: I would, you know, I would always, I'd always start off with, if, with a question to your, your son or daughter as a parent that says, are you a gamer? And even if it's, you know, you might be playing with your youngest on a Switch or something, okay, so it's less eSports y, but it's still an opportunity to have a conversation with, with, gaming and about that.

James: If you've got a young son or daughter, go and see if they do an eSports BTEC, right? Because if they do, there's a very strong chance they'll be involved in the Wednesday Championships by the British eSports Federation. So when I was, when I was young, every Wednesday I'd go and play football on the field and get watched by a few people, get booed by the locals or whatever, um, and then that would be me done until the following Wednesday.

James: Now there is an opportunity for. Friends, colleagues, and parents to watch your son or daughter compete every Wednesday online. You know, we, we have finals that take place in a place called Confetti in Nottingham, which is this beautiful arena where a couple of hundred people will watch live. It's all these students that have got to the finals on stage, but a couple of hundred, sorry, a couple of thousand, it's not quite a hundred thousand yet, will be watching again geographically from all over the world.

James: It's such an easy place to get involved in so quickly that you just say, are you involved in esports? What's your, you know. Are you a gamer? What do you play? Why do you play it? Why do you enjoy it? And I have, I have a now 10 year old and my, my son is fairly kind of monosyllabic when you say, how's your day been at school?

James: How's it fine? Good. Okay, great. Fine. Are you excited about the new Fortnite update that's out today? And away he goes. So you've got to tap into their interest and you will learn so much by that, by that kind of flow of communication and passion and excitement. It is really exciting to be involved in it right now.

Scott: Absolutely. Absolutely. I think if you get that excitement from, you know, you're speaking to your child, you say, What do you think about the fortnight update? And they're really excited about it. I think the key message here is that is brilliant. Exactly. Yeah. But that is brilliant. You know, and it's, it's actually a passion that they can take forward.

Scott: You know, it's a passion that they can take forward and build a career out of. So it's not just a hobby. It's not just a game they're playing. It's, it opens up far more doors and potentially plain sport does, you know, because of, in terms of accessibility. 

James: Well, that, that's the thing. And one of the, you know, as, uh, as I say, I've been in education a while now.

James: This is the first time in terms of an idea to ratification where something is contemporary, it's engaging, it's fun, and it's work relevant. And that doesn't happen in education much. By the time something is contemporary and relevant, by the time paperwork's done and, you know, red tape's done, three or four years have passed, and it's not new, it's not exciting, it's not even fashionable anymore.

James: The very nature of what we're doing with eSports and education and specifically our sort of virtual work experience means that we can be flexible, we can adapt, and we still keep it contemporary, fun and engaging. 

Scott: Absolutely, and I guess, yeah, building on that, you know, what are you most excited about the eSports space in general, you know, aside from the next Fortnite update?

James: Yes, um... I'm excited with my, you know, with my education hat on and, and what have you, I'm excited that more and more people are starting to get it right. So when I started speaking on behalf of Pearson and college and what have you, and I remember giving talks for HP and Lenovo and what have you, where I had to convince people that this is the thing.

James: And now a couple of years on the people I'm giving talks for in the companies, it's less of a. Audience going, sorry, what, what it's more of an audience going. I've heard of this. I get this. Ah, okay. I get it now. So the buy in and the resistance or pushback, however you want to call it. It's far less now, which excites me because therefore there's more opportunity.

James: It's a lot easier for a young person to say, I want to do this. I want to be involved in this industry. Without being laughed at by their mates or their mum or dad, not quite understanding or mum and dad go, no, you're going to go and do further maths and whatever that's fine too, but now there's so much breadth and opportunity that it's exciting to see where, where this will go.

James: And, and the talent that is involved with an education, these young people is immense. It is absolutely immense. And so I'm just excited to see that, that kind of side, just kind of unfold really and see where it goes. 

Scott: Yeah, fantastic. And what games do you play? Yeah, 

James: um, if I get the time. Um, so, I do play Fortnite with my son.

James: I will, I will admit that. We play Fortnite, we do Minecraft, we do Fall Guys. Um, currently watching my son occasionally run around in, not in any sports game, but Jurassic Park Online where he's building up some sort of weird Jurassic Park dinosaur arena and he's gonna spend loads of... Uh, money in there and then he's going to release and go wild and what have you.

James: So fine. Uh, that's good. Um, and myself, when I get the opportunity, uh, on top of that, my friends and I, we will play a pretty, pretty kind of rock standard kind of call of duty war zone, uh, game where we will jump on in and we will talk to each other through our mics. And be far more sociable, uh, whilst we're running around doing the kind of things in Warzone than we ever are normally in real life, we're on the phone to each other, so there's that lovely sort of community element on top of that as well, so that's cool.

Scott: I know exactly what you mean, I can pick up the phone to my brother and we'll have a very quick conversation, it's very, very practical. Um, it comes, it comes around and we, we, we always pull out Mario cart and that's it. We're gone for hours and hours and hours and conversation goes wherever. And, um, you know, I finally come back and realize we've been playing for two hours.

Scott: It's, it's very, very interesting how that can happen. Um, so thank you very much, James. A really, really good conversation. Um, you know, for anybody listening who wants to learn more about e sports or specifically what Hundo does around that area, obviously come to our website, come to hundo. xyz. There, you can sign up for our, um, our newsletter.

Scott: You can also find out details about our upcoming Kickstarter, which is specifically around AI. You can find out details about that. Um, and you can check out more information about our virtual work experience programs as well. So if what we've been talking about has generated some interest, potentially for your children or for your business, uh, you can reach out to us there to find out more about those virtual work experience programs.

Scott: So thank you very much. 

James: Thank you.

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