*Note from Thadeous* I asked Cole and Kiri to get back together and revisit Cole’s interview from March because I really wanted to see them dig into what it means to be an eSports/Community manager. As someone who spends most of his time in the digital space I’m really excited to see Cole, and his position at ASTRO Gaming grow. eSports, and Community management, are fields that stay in a constant state of flux and watching Cole navigate our community and define a role that so deftly combines the two has been extremely enjoyable. I have no doubt that Cole will one day be running his own eSports company, speaking at large events, and engaging a community on the scale of millions.
The world of eSports is still pretty new in the grander scheme of things, which means our resident eSports and Community manager has quite a job ahead of him. We sat down with Cole Lovelady to talk about how he takes on a position that seems to always be evolving.
ASTRO: How did you first get into eSports?
Cole: When I became more integrated with ASTRO Marketing. When I was doing customer service and office management, I wasn’t super into eSports. I knew we sold headsets and people used them when they played video games but once it came down to marketing them, I had to really learn our community, finding out what they’re playing, what other gear they like, why they’d want to use ASTROs. And then just engage as much as I can.
I guess I liked it too because–who doesn’t like the idea of playing video games for a living.
ASTRO: Would you say you’re now passionate about eSports? For instance, if you were to retire tomorrow, would you still watch eSports?
Cole: I love watching eSports! I’m always on the edge of my seat either rooting for my team or learning the ropes. All in all if I we’re to retire tomorrow I would definitely watch Call of Duty eSports, because that’s my game of choice, for life.
ASTRO: But you wouldn’t be live-tweeting on the weekends, like you’ve had to do in the past.
Cole: Oh heck no! If you want to have a normal weekend life, this is not the job for you. I’d probably keep track of standings and ranks, and watch Grand Finals and X-Games, but probably wouldn’t watch it as closely.
ASTRO: So this is not a 9-5 kinda gig at all…
Cole: Ha, no, not at all.
ASTRO: If you could have any other position in the eSports field, what would it be?
Cole: I like to get creative so being a social media & content producer for an eSports team would be awesome. I’d also like to work in marketing for a league or manage an eSports team because I like developing brands and hosting events.
ASTRO: So eSports is pretty new in the long scheme of things, and it’s always changing. How do you even begin to tackle a job that has no tried and true set path? You were kinda thrown into the deep end of the pool.
Cole: It started with trolling hard–looking at tournament organizers and leagues, and then looking at pros, and just seeing what they’re doing on a day-to-day basis. Lately, the WCS, the LCS, MLG, are becoming more organized and producing high end content, making it easier to follow. It’s also becoming easier to predict when you should be playing or watching, and what you should be focused on.
I think learning from watching streams and going to events is the best way to learn. You gotta understand a bracket, how that works, and how everybody got into that bracket. Did they earn their spot by winning? Was it an invitational that got them there? Did they earn it by gathering pro points? All of these questions are important for organizers and players joining eSports.
ASTRO: What are pro points?
Cole: Say you compete in a tournament, there’s a certain amount of Pro Points up for grabs. The more you win, the more you earn, and the higher you are in the leaderboards. So if a team wants a new player, a good place to look for experience is high in the leaderboard ranks. Then they look at YouTube, streams, and social media to see if they are the right fit for the brand– that’s kinda what I do too when looking for teams or tournament organizers.
ASTRO: Would you say MLG is the rule makers at this point? I’m assuming rules have changed and pro points haven’t been around the entire time. Who introduces these things so that they get picked up by leagues?
Cole: MLG is the league organizer for Activision and Call of Duty, whereas for League of Legends and Riot, they run the LCS. Same thing for Starcraft and WCS. They all make their own rules and point systems for their specific games.
ASTRO: Is there ever any kind of integration where they steal rules from each other?
Cole: Yeah, all the time. If any smaller tournaments are hosting something, they’ll say things like, “Use MLG’s rules”, or Call of Duty will sometimes say “Use MLG eSports rules when playing in this tournament.”
ASTRO: How would you personally like to improve the field of eSports?
Cole: Content. Like the stuff Enrique does. It’s kind of sad to see all these really big tournament organizers using info-graphics and screen-grabs to promote things. I also think leagues and schedules need more definition to them, to make it easier for people to create content. We should be able to anticipate needs by a certain date– get plane tickets, get equipment reserved, etc. to prepare for events.
I’d also like to see more people working together on things. For example, MLG does a great job with that. They’re the main league for Call of Duty and they let UMG run side tournaments while awarding their players MLG pro points. This means UMG is sanctioned by the official league and it gives pros more legit opportunities to compete. Also if MLG doesn’t have time to run those events and tournaments, these other leagues can do it for them.
So that’s what I want to see. Smaller tournament organizers working with bigger leagues to host larger events and give the little guys a better chance to reach the top. Don’t fight each other, work together. Document it well and show us what you’ve got!
ASTRO: How does your job as eSports manager relate to your position as Community manager?
Cole: They definitely go hand-in-hand. Our community is very focused around eSports, because that’s where our products got started. We found a problem in eSports and solved it. Then that led us into recreational gaming. People are seeing you can earn money at these tournaments and streaming –so they’re jumping on the bandwagon and our community is growing. Basically, I get to help our community understand eSports and how our products are used by pros.
ASTRO: Do you think those positions will always be linked?
Cole: Yes, but they have to be separate too. People come to us and they want different things. Some people need help hosting a tournament at an eSports event, some people want to get sponsorship for a pro team, whereas other people want a stream partnership, or they want to start selling our products. All these people need different things from us. That’s why Fletch has jumped in to help our community team with our streaming initiative. It’s too much for one person to do it all, but they cross over, which is why our team works so well together.
Lately when you go to gaming events like PAX, it’s a combination of both. Our community is there to check out the games, equipment, and eSports tournaments with their friends — watch and meet the pros in person. So it’s a little bit of both, bringing worlds together. Whether it’s brands, amateurs, pros or customers, my goal is to expose our fans to more gaming.
ASTRO: How many people do you know that do roughly what you do? People who aren’t perhaps directly related to eSports but have to handle both worlds?
Cole: There are not too many eSports managers out there. Only a handful that I know, but the competitive market is growing. It’s definitely a cross-over position for gamers in marketing. With our pro teams there’s a lot of money and reputation on the line, so my attention is weighted towards eSports, but our whole community is important.
You have to be involved in the competitive and recreational community, as well the games themselves. By attending live events, engaging online fans, playing the games and enjoying yourself, you’ll naturally become expert. Passion is key to being successful.
ASTRO: So this is a position you could even pitch to a company as something of value that they may not know how to approach yet.
Cole: Yeah, eSports is one of the fastest growing and largest markets out there, with more and more prize money at stake every year. If your company is involved in gaming, you should at least entertain eSports as a marketing asset. If a company needed to seek an eSports manager, a good place to look would be a community manager from a league organizer, a hardware company or eSports heavy game. Or even just Pro gamers. There are a lot of pros that reach their retirement early and would make great managers because they know the ins and outs of the game, streams, events and community. Many pro gamers are also professional businessmen and women who work hard to represent themselves and sponsors well. If you find the right person, the job will pay for itself.
ASTRO: What’s your favorite part of your job?
Cole: Making sure our teams have what they need to be win and successful. Whether it’s money or products, or promotion –I just like enabling them to do the best that they can. They don’t have to worry about travel, or gear–I want them to focus like an artist would on their art.
I also really like seeing the cool photos, videos, and products we make. I’m an ASTRO fan boy for lifez.
ASTRO: Is there anything you find that you have to constantly reteach yourself?
Cole: Keeping up with rosters is a huge part of it, and watching statistics and league standings. I also have to stay up on new titles and new teams–which are up and coming. If a new game comes out, they’re always banning certain weapons or maps, or making new rules and leagues. New tournaments are also popping up left and right–especially ones that want our sponsorship. However, when it all comes down to it, watching and engaging the community on social media is definitely one of the most valuable ways I can help our brand. By keeping a close eye on our pros, partners, customers and competitors we are able to gauge the pulse of our market to stay ahead of the curve.
ASTRO: What was ASTRO’s first pro team? Did you have a part in setting that up?
Cole: Throughout the years ASTRO has supported several pro teams beginning with the Halo community and Major League Gaming. Legends like Final Boss, Instinct, Carbon & Classic gave us our start in eSports by helping create the A40 + MixAmp Pro. They had trouble communicating and hearing each other at MLG tournaments so we created a private voice network and improved interface that is still standard for today’s eSports. Since then, Halo has slowed down and we branched out into Call of Duty with OpTic Gaming and Team EnVyUs, who we’ve been sponsoring for 3 years. I was not here for the initial signings but have helped manage these relationships for the last two years while continuing to engage new teams and tournament organizers in our community.
ASTRO: How do you think sponsoring pros has helped ASTRO as a company, from a marketing, branding and community point of view?
Cole: Our teams make a huge difference in our ability to market the advantages of ASTRO products to customers. When I look for advice on gear I ask an expert, so why not ask than an eSports pro about gaming hardware? Our pro teams are some of the best in the world and they only use the best gear to ensure they’re ready for battle. If you ask any of our pros about ASTRO products they will genuinely tell you why they love them. Comfort, style, sound quality and hardware reliability are all ASTRO advantages that help our pros perform at their peak. It’s also great for the community because we create products that can be branded with our team’s logos, giving fans another way to rally around their teams.
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