Competitive computer gaming, known as esports, is one of the fastest growing sports globally. At the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (CONEL) we run esports courses and an Esports Enrichment Programme at our Enfield Centre. Here, our newly appointed esports coach Finlay Stewart shares his passion for gaming and how it can help students’ education.
Tell us about your esports journey.
I graduated from university in 2015 and went straight into esports. Since then, I’ve worked many different jobs in the industry from sales executive to managing and coaching teams. I’ve worked as an esports coach for the past seven years with some of the best players and teams from around the globe and also at grassroots level. I’m very excited about our project here at CONEL.
What was your first game console and the first game you played?
I had a Nintendo Game Boy when I was around six years old. My first game was Pokémon Yellow – a classic! Soon after that I got into PlayStation and PC gaming.
What do you enjoy most about playing esports?
I enjoy the social aspect. Playing videogames is great fun on your own but even better with friends or family, especially when you’re all working together towards a goal. These days I rarely play online games on my own.
Tell us about the Esports Enrichment Programme at CONEL.
The Esports Enrichment Programme brings gamers together to play, train and have fun. At the college’s Enfield centre, students have access to 20 powerful gaming rigs and compete against gamers from other schools and colleges in the British Esports Student Champs competition each week. Games include Valorant, League of Legends, FIFA and Rocket League. For the past three years the college team, CONEL Cyphers, have been consistently placed in the top four teams in the country.
What skills can you gain playing esports that will benefit your education and career?
Playing in an esports team teaches you many things. First off, it develops your leadership and teamworking skills. It also improves your hand-eye coordination, ability to multitask and your IT, communication and problem-solving skills, to name just a few.
How do you coach someone to be a better gamer?
The way to coach people to be better gamers is the same way you would teach or coach them to do anything really. You find their current level and from there identify their strengths and weaknesses. Teach them to focus on their strengths and work on minimising where they are weak. Show them what they are doing wrong and give them additional areas to work on. The get them to watch back their mistakes and analyse them.
Is gaming still very much a male domain?
It depends on the game in question. Different games have different demographics. For example, mobile gaming is pretty much 50-50 between male and females. Console and PC games are still very male dominated, but some games like Valorant have a huge female player base.
Tell us about the esports courses available at CONEL!
CONEL offers one and two-year esports diploma courses at Level 2 and Level 3, the equivalent of three A Levels, endorsed by the British Esports Association. The courses cover streaming games, tournaments, event planning, game design, video production, coaching and entrepreneurship.
What job opportunities are out there if you become a competent gamer?
The esports industry is expanding at a huge rate and there are many different jobs and roles within the industry. On professional teams you have the pro-players, managers, analysts and coaches, but there are also backroom roles in marketing, sales, HR, merchandising, IT and media.
What do you think of the decision not to include esports in the Commonwealth Games?
It’s disappointing as it had the potential to really raise the profile of esports. I’d like to see it recognised in the Olympic or Commonwealth Games as an actual medal sport. Like any other supports it requires skill, training and commitment to be the best.
What are the side effects of too much gaming and how do you prevent them?
Too much excess of anything is never good. In gaming it can lead to back, neck and wrist problems. The other issues such as headaches are more short term and easier to fix. In general, just don’t overdo it. Take breaks, drink lots of water and eat healthily.
What is a healthy amount of time to spend gaming each week?
I wouldn’t say that there’s a hard limit to the amount of time you spend gaming as long as you are able to meet all your other commitments, get a good eight hours’ sleep, eat well and stay healthy. When it starts to take precedence over everything else, I’d say that’s when it becomes an issue.
What is your best advice on how to become a top esports player?
Play the game. Watch professional players and learn from what they do. At the end of the day, it just comes down to playing more and having the right attitude. Look at your own mistakes and don’t make excuses or blame others. And enrol at CONEL of course!
Find out more about esports courses at CONEL here.
Follow the CONEL Cyphers on Twitter @CONELesports here.