From gaming pro to video editor

by Zuzanna Inczewska

Esports as an industry is growing and growing, but it wasn’t always a sustainable career path for people with a passion for gaming. Whilst now, the most successful professional video gamers earn millions yearly, it’s still  a small percentage of players who get to that point.

Joe ‘Joekerism’ Kent was one of them. He started his career in 2013, slowly but surely falling in love with the game League of Legends. League of Legends is one of the biggest competitive games to date, with hundreds of millions gamers playing the game every month, and long-standing professional competitive tournaments like LCS.

Joe said: “I played ranked games with a friend, and he was much better than me. I wanted to get as good as him, so whenever I had time I would play solo and want to get as good as possible.”

For UK gamers, one of the biggest gaming events to attend is Insomnia. There are two to three Insomnia events a year, and it’s the place to be as a growing player.

Joe Kent (picture: Scott Choucino)

“While I was playing League of Legends, I was also playing Counter-Strike on a team. We weren’t very good, but we actually went to an [Insomnia] with my friends, and we played in the tournament. We finished like 30th or something, we got absolutely destroyed by everyone, but it was a lot of fun. And that’s when I realised competitive gaming was actually a thing, all these people getting together in an area and you had prize money and all that kinda thing and I was like ‘Wow, this is actually a viable thing for people to do’.”

Events like Insomnia are exactly what makes people who love gaming realise how much of an industry esports actually is. Nowadays it’s a viable career option, whether as a player, a coach, or someone working on the business side of it.

Joe was a part of many UK organisations, which at the time seemed like a revolving door of players switching places with each other, all hoping to be on top. But at the time, there wasn’t much money going around in the UK esports industry. Sponsors weren’t really a thing, and a salary was a myth people hoped to see the evolution of one day. Three years later we see the evolution of that, players having stable incomes and sponsors sticking around with the organisations, all to make sure playing is the only thing they have to worry about.

When Joe realised he would have to spend a lot of time and energy playing League of Legends exclusively for just a chance to make his passion a career, he turned to a different passion he’d been pursuing years before.

“Most of the time I was freelancing or working whilst playing anyway. I’ve been doing editing for a long time now… I’ve been doing that for about eight years now, way before I even played League of Legends.”

Whilst playing League of Legends competitively was something Joe loved to do, he realised he wouldn’t be able to support himself jumping from org to org. It just wasn’t sustainable.

“After sixth form I went to do an apprenticeship in a production company in Northampton, and they produced all kinds of corporate videos like adverts, promotional films, that kinda thing. I’d either edit them or do all the graphics, and from then I just kind of built up my portfolio, and after a year at that company I completed that and went freelance, so I would do freelance graphic design and motion graphics for about two years before I started at ESL.”

ESL is the world’s largest independent esports company, it is known for events such as the UK Premiership, ESL One, Pro League, and IEM. It hosts events and tournaments for a number of competitive levels for gamers who are just starting out, all the way to pro players who earn millions a year. In 2018, ESL hosted ESL One Birmingham, the first Major to be hosted in the UK.

“I wasn’t really proactively trying to better myself [in League of Legends]. Maybe if I spent more time playing and coaching myself I could go professional… but I never got around to doing that because I was working. And I enjoyed my work as well, so I didn’t see myself doing anything different because I was enjoying working so much.’

To the question ‘Do you regret not trying?,’ Joe responded immediately. ‘Oh yeah, for sure. Maybe if I’d spent like, six months just playing and not working, and just seeing what would have happened, then maybe I could have done it.

“I played at a few high-profile events, one of them being Pro-am, where I played in front of thousands of people. That made me think that maybe I could do it, but at the same I was working so I never really got the opportunity. So I kind of do regret not doing it, but I am happy with the path I chose and I’m happy with where I am in my career right now.’

Joe Kent is currently the Video/Graphics Editor at ESL UK, the local division of ESL. He seems content with his choices, but when faced with a choice like that, we can’t help ourselves but wonder what could have been.

 

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