" BUILDING A SUCCESSFUL ESPORTS PROGRAM REQUIRES A COMPREHENSIVE, 360 PLAN TO FULLY SUPPORT ALL ASPECTS OF THE INDUSTRY."- SARI KITELYN, DIRECTOR OF ESPORTS AND PROJECT DEVELOPMENT, FULL SAIL UNIVERSITY
Building a successful esports program requires a comprehensive, 360 plan to fully support all aspects of the industry. Most importantly and often overlooked – community. The gaming and esports community is the foundation of this explosive industry. Each game genre has unique community identities, and you’ll find both variations and similarities among streamers, players, fans, and teams. Trying to build a program without a full understanding of the community foundation will significantly limit audience development opportunities, and charging forward without a developed plan for community support will lead to program failure.
For those wanting to enter the esports space, it’s important to remember that this field is not new. With a history of over 30 years, the grassroots foundation of esports is a strong part of what has made this industry such a viable and enticing opportunity, but it needs to evolve in order to grow. Breaking down long standing toxicity, creating a truly inclusive space, and elevating underrepresented voices are key in the continued success of the esports industry.
According to a study done by the Anti-Defamation League, in 2020, over 80% of Americans ages 18 – 45 experienced harassment while gaming online. Alarmingly, 53% of online multiplayer gamers who experienced harassment reported that they were targeted because of their race/ ethnicity, religion, ability status, gender, or sexual orientation. As harmful as these reports are, only a small amount of those targeted are reporting their harassment. While publishers and platforms are developing initiatives to help combat these problems, we know that this industry started at the community level, and real change needs to start at the community level.
Those of us leading in the esports and gaming space have an obligation to make inclusivity a priority, by not only instituting a zero-tolerance policy for toxic behavior, but also by developing active initiatives and strategies to combat toxicity. As more non-endemic leaders enter the space, they can bring education and knowledge to improve the health of these communities. The success of the future of the esports industry relies on endemic gaming community leaders and non-endemic business and
strategic leaders coming together for both growth and evolution.
With over 15 years in this space, I am proud to be a small part of the road to inclusivity. People considering developing a career in this space, remember to listen to the community, regularly reinvest your commitment to this space, and lead with a growth and evolution mindset. Together, we can make sure success and positive impact go hand in hand.
For the past 15 years, Sari Kitelyn has been responsible for developing brand initiatives for Full Sail, with a focus on building their esports ecosystem. Under Sari’s leadership, Full Sail has been recognized as a top performing program and has been applauded for their efforts in diversity and inclusivity. Sari earned her bachelor’s degree in law and her MBA from UCF, and she holds her Project Management Professional Certification (PMP).
FULL SAIL UNIVERSITY