‘I saw the esports industry was growing rapidly. Millions of people play and watch across the world, and there are billions of dollars out there in prizes, fees, and sponsorships.’
“I got into esports, or competitive, organized video gaming, about four years ago. I was working with a friend at the NYIT STEP program, [the] NYIT College of Osteopathic Medicine Science Technology Entry Program. We were working with high school kids, teaching them how to create a podcast, and I started to notice that when kids were given the opportunity to speak, they were very, very into esports and online gaming. It got me thinking, and I saw a chance to turn their interest into opportunities.
“Long Island Gaming League, LIGL, which I founded in 2019, really came from asking myself, ‘How do I reach the kids in a way that is going to be beneficial to them?’ I saw the esports industry was growing rapidly. Millions of people play and watch across the world, and there are billions of dollars out there in prizes, fees and sponsorships. I knew there was a real opportunity for anyone who understands the business side of things to take advantage of.
“But they had to understand that esports had to be more than just kind of playing video games. I wanted teens to think about gaming more than just, ‘How do I beat a high score?’ I wanted them to be thinking about jobs esports could turn into and what business opportunities were out there.
“Today, we work with about 150 students at Wyandanch High School. The students take our class during the school day. I went to school for business administration and marketing, so I don’t have a teaching background, so we hired teachers who are looking to work within esports. They go into the classrooms with students, and we handle the curriculum and everything else.
“The course teaches students about the history of esports. We also educate them on different facets of the business — whether it’s team development, managing, sponsorship, marketing — we kind of take them through that whole process. We have guest speakers who are in the industry who will talk to them, too. The goal at the end of the course is for every student to have a portfolio that includes a league logo they created and an esports organization in which they’ve developed. We hope they can build upon that as they continue outside of high school.”
The idea of esports and gaming is so misunderstood, but once people start coming together and really seeing the benefit…
“The first year we started, we opened the class up to students in 10th through 12th grade. It was very cool to see how they were able to work together. They’re put into teams, and we were watching how they were able to work together and create their own mini organizations. They all had to submit a final project based on their work.
“LIGL [Long Island Gaming League] does more than just work in a classroom setting. I work on building community in the esports industry overall, so we’ve worked with and reached out to local churches, local nonprofits, community organizations and libraries.
“We recently held an event at Levittown library. We had students from our high school [program] come out. We had two colleges come out, NYIT and Long Island University.
“We also talked about our esports development program that’s currently in Wyandanch High School to give other districts ideas of what they could do with the curriculum. We talked about the different types of opportunities schools can provide, like creating esports clubs and playing games competitively amongst themselves. And we talked about what happens after high school, what are some of the business opportunities around esports.
“Outside of the schools and library programs, we work with local youth organizations, in general, to educate them. It’s not just for teenagers, either. For gamers who missed playing esports in high school and who are out of college and still want to hang out with their friends in a more social way, we do what’s called a bar takeover.
“We work with a bar called Ghost in Bay Shore. Instead of being looked at as an outcast or just a gamer, they are able to see each other as like-minded people from a variety of industries — whether they might be a lawyer, a teacher or a mechanic. They can all come out and just hang out and have a good time playing some video games.
“Going forward, we want to continue to build a stronger esports presence on Long Island, working with other Long Island sports organizations. The idea of esports and gaming is so misunderstood, but once people start coming together and really seeing the benefit, I think Long Island itself can be a resource for the growing industry.”
Interviewed by KJ Bannan