While tutoring and services that will help gamers get good at the games they play have been a long standing part of esports - but what has been lacking is a service that will teach a gamer how to take the skills they have and build a career out of it.
That's what LVLUP Dojo is looking to do, and they've assembled quite the team of gamers to get things kicked off - from Smash 4 star Gonzalo 'ZeRo' Barrios to Renegades' Halo player Tyler 'Ninja' Blevins and more.
To learn more about this subscription based service (which is offered for $15 a month), we caught up with Reza Jafery, co-founder, and CEO of LVL Up Dojo.
Tell me how the idea for LVLUP Dojo came about.
We had a digital marketing agency and had started helping a few friends who were competitive gamers and full-time streamers. Our goal was to help them create a stronger brand for themselves and acquire new sponsorships. Through our work, we started to notice that a lot of pros don't really understand how valuable they are- both to the community and to hopeful companies looking to get into the market.
With LVLUP Dojo we’re able to address two problems: competitive gamers and full-time streamers get taken advantage of by brands and orgs in today's day and age and there isn’t a clear roadmap to becoming a competitive gamer or full-time streamer. In our eyes, that means that the next generation of gamers is going to have this same set of issues that the current one does. They aren’t being prepared for the career path their choosing. We want to grow the industry as a whole and we feel the best way to do that is from the bottom up. In other words, we’re making sure that the next gamers who end up competing learn from the mistakes of the players that came before them.
What about the industry made you want to get involved?
As our friends began to enter the world of esports, we got to see firsthand the mismanagement of the industry. Some of the best players in the world still have trouble making a decent living for themselves because the gamers are the last ones to get their piece of the pie. It's the big brands, the sponsors, etc., they are the ones who eat first, and then the gamers (many of whom are very young) get what's left—and we felt like that wasn't fair.
We want to provide gamers a way to share their wealth of knowledge and be able to build a sustainable revenue stream for themselves. So our model is to reward gamers with a large % of the courses they sell through LVLUP Dojo so that they can earn a living educating other aspiring gamers.
There’s a lack of transparency about how to become a part of the community in any fashion. Our ultimate goal is growing the community and lowering the barriers to entry in eSports so that we can get a more widespread adoption of the sport. There have to be so many extremely talented players who never get a chance to compete because they just don’t know where to start, so we’re providing a detailed list of those first few steps. We’re creating a process for people who want to become a pro- and giving them a platform where they can meet and collaborate with other people who have the same goals as them. Once we’ve built out a more robust curriculum, we’ll be forming partnerships with orgs and teams across eSports to create a player farming system so we can actually help our students get the attention they need from the orgs they want to join.
Why does Dojo prefer the idea of courses rather than 1 on 1 tutoring?
We’re not here to make average players good. We don’t think there’s a shortage of skilled players- there’s a shortage of players who know how to use their skill to get the attention they need to start a career. We don’t think 1 on 1 coaching to increase skill levels in certain games is going to push the community forward. However, we think that giving people the knowledge and tools they need to succeed in the industry as a whole- can.
Another reason we’ve chosen to shy away from 1 on 1 tutoring is the fact that it isn't scalable. If we facilitated tutoring we wouldn’t be able to help as many people as we want to. An industry expert only has so many hours in a day, and the majority of those hours are spent playing their game of choice, interacting on social media, creating content, etc.
By creating video courses, their knowledge is able to spread far beyond one-off sessions, empowering more gamers than if they were only available on an hourly basis.
Who are some prospective players people can look forward to learning from on your platform?
Aside from our existing roster of incredible players (Scump, Ninja, ZeRo, & Exitec), the next round of courses features two stars from Team Faze: Faze Apex and Clayster, as well as Street Fighter extraordinaire Justin Wong. All three of these guys came out to The Dojo and shot extremely detailed courses. We are so excited to continue working with such talented gamers.
How do you think that a typical gamer can apply the lessons learned on Dojo to their gameplay?
So much of success is the mindset, and knowing the right questions to ask. That's why there are experts and thought leaders in every industry because they are the ones who pose the questions that can cause drastic shifts in someone's performance.
The gamers we partner with for LVLUP Dojo are exactly that: They are thought, leaders. They have worked their way up the ladder and learned firsthand what works, what doesn't, and where they would have done things differently.
The courses aren't so much about in-game technical knowledge, as much as they are big shifts in a players mentality. For example one of the courses we launched LVLUP Dojo with was made by ZeRo, an incredible Super Smash Brothers competitor. And his entire course is about understanding how to create good practice habits, how to think about yourself as a player, how to determine what you need to work on most in order to improve, and how to maintain a clear head while competing on the big stage.
After you finish watching his course, you find yourself asking different questions—and that's the whole point. Whether you want to play in the big leagues, or you want to be a professional Twitch streamer, or you want to build a Personal Brand in the gaming industry, these courses present you with the tough questions so that you can shorten your own learning curve.
What do you think the biggest thing that people would need to know before trying to get involved in esports on the business side?
Knowing your value and protecting your brand. And that's not just in gaming, honestly. That's in every industry. Gamers dive head first into the industry without really understanding how they are going to turn this thing that they love into a reliable career for themselves.
It's something all of our course creators touch on in their own way. They either talk about being deliberate in choosing the right team, or carefully reading contracts before you sign with sponsors, or understanding the value of the audience you've built on social media. There are a lot of ways to make a living for yourself in gaming, but if you're not careful you'll find yourself giving up big chunks of your income streams to other people.
That's the biggest issue we want to solve, is educating gamers on how to realistically take this thing they love and turn it into a full-time gig. That's why we also provide the gamers teaching the courses with a much higher percentage of courses sold. We don't consider them "affiliates." We want them to be partners. We want to see them succeed, in continuing to build their brand and financially as well.