This Professional Gamer Wants You To Take His Bachelor's Degree In E-Sports. Here's Why You Should
Like many seasoned gamers, Gen.T honouree Irymarc “Tryke” Gutierrez spent much of his youth sat in front of a computer playing Dota 2, the online battle-arena video game that continues to be his favourite. But as co-founder and CEO of Southeast Asia’s leading e-sports talent platform, Tier One Entertainment, the veteran has his sights set on a new domain: mobile gaming.
The shift from PC to mobile was crucial to the industry's growth in Gutierrez's native Philippines, where significantly more people own smartphones than computers, and internet cafes remain inaccessible due to the Covid-19 pandemic. “The gamer in me and the ‘Tryke’ in me wants to stay in Dota,” he says, “[but] as the CEO of Tier One, I need to create the machinery to support [the mobile] ecosystem, because that’s where the audience is.” Thanks to the inclusion of e-sports in the Southeast Asian Games and Asian Games—not to mention initiatives such as Tier One's bachelor of science degree in e-sports, which it developed with a Philippine university—that audience is rapidly growing.
Here, Tryke discusses the industry’s transformation in Southeast Asia and shares tips on how to build your brand as a gamer.
For a long time, gaming wasn't taken seriously as a sport. What was the turning point?
Being a gamer growing up, I never felt that [gaming] was small. It’s just something that not a lot of people in the mainstream see. Gaming has been a multi-billion dollar industry for a while, but it’s growing because of the non-existence of sports right now due to the logistical challenges of Covid-19. People are looking for ways to compete and socialise outside of chats. Gaming allows you to do that, and that’s why it’s becoming more of a lifestyle rather than just a hobby.
E-sports has always had a bright future. Globally, it really turned a lot of heads because people realised how much viewership and growth we had in the past years. People are finally believing in it. Outside of that, look at the Southeast Asian Games—e-sports is part of that. The Asian Games just announced that e-sports is going to be part of the games as well. Those are the kind of statements that prove it’s the institutions that are really looking into the space now.
How has the e-sports industry and audience transformed over recent years, in the Philippines and throughout Southeast Asia?
In Southeast Asia, the mobile platform exponentially grew the market. Today, anyone with a cellphone can be a gamer. Games like Mobile Legends: Bang Bang and Call of Duty: Mobile created a huge ‘big bang’ of growth in e-sports because almost everyone has a smartphone right now. So e-sports has really grown exponentially with the transfer from PC to the mobile platform.
Furthermore, in the Philippines, Tier One helped launch BS E-Sports with LPU (Lyceum of the Philippines University). It’s a four-year course and the first e-sports course in Southeast Asia. If that’s not a testament to the acceptance of e-sports here in the country, I don’t know what is.
What are the most significant obstacles to the growth of the industry, in the Philippines and throughout Southeast Asia?
I think the biggest obstacle is still infrastructure. It’s no secret that a lot of areas in the Philippines don’t have fast-speed Internet, and some of our areas don’t even have electricity. E-sports and gaming still rely on modern technology, and so electricity and internet speed are factors to its growth. I really believe that that’s the first challenge when it comes to e-sports.
The second is probably social acceptance. Until society accepts gaming, there will still be resistance to people trying to pursue games for a living, or even as a hobby. You know, people let kids play chess. There’s no exercise there at all, but because the perception of chess is more like a mental sport, [parents] let them play it for hours. However, when kids are playing video games, it’s evil in some people’s eyes. So I think that has to change. I’m not blind to not see the negative effects of gaming, but there are implications with any other activity out there.
What is e-sports culture like? How would you explain it to someone who is totally new to the space?
The best way to put it is it’s like sports. With any sport, it’s always about sportsmanship, competitiveness, and communities. You go into your local village, you want to play with the best in the village, and eventually, you want to test your skills and go out of the village. With e-sports it’s kind of the same: if you really have the motivation to become the best at a certain game, you try to be the best in your computer shop, and then you go out to compete with the better ones in your province, eventually even compete outside the country. It’s sports, but on a different platform.
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Tier One Entertainment represents a diverse range of e-sports talents. How can aspiring gamers build a brand that stands out among the many talents who are already successful?
Well, that’s one of the multi-million-dollar questions right? If anyone can answer that in a very scientific manner, then people should just follow that formula to become the next Alodia, or Bianca Yao, or Wrecker, or Cong TV. However, there’s no exact science to popularity. Even in terms of virality, there’s no formula. I mean, you would be surprised that some people just sprinkle salt and that goes viral. You never know what will become viral or who will become popular.
However, within Tier One Entertainment we believe in the values of the person—hard work and understanding the grind that it takes to get ‘up there’. You need to know who you are and what you represent.
What is the secret to establishing an audience and keeping them engaged?
Don’t waste their time. Today, a lot of people undervalue the importance of other people’s time. Once you wrap your head around the idea that every person’s time is important, you need to look at content creation as a way to make sure that you don’t waste your audience’s time. I think that’s what really matters. Whether it’s providing value in terms of entertainment or informative content, make sure that you treat your audience as if they’re the President of the Philippines or President of the United States.
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I think the Philippines is really set up to become the Southeast Asian hub of e-sports
— Irymarc "Tryke" Gutierrez
What has been the most exciting development in the e-sports industry in recent years, both locally and worldwide?
For me, it’s really the rise of Mobile Legends. I started out as a Dota 2 fanatic, and until today I still play Dota. However, [the industry] has innovated in a different way and has really unlocked a new generation of gamers that play on mobile devices. As the CEO of Tier One, I need to create the machinery to support that ecosystem because that’s where the audience is. The gamer in me and the ‘Tryke’ in me wants to stay in Dota, but I can’t do that—I need to be practical because I’m not just looking out for myself, I’m looking out for the whole company. So to have a game that really exploded in Southeast Asia with the infrastructure that’s similar to the West... Mobile Legends really created an ecosystem around their game, and all of the stakeholders in the space have found their own ways to position themselves in that ecosystem. And I think that’s really important for the long-term sustainability of e-sports.
What technological developments are you keeping a close eye on, and what opportunities do they invite?
I think e-sports is still going to be an attention-driven economy, so what I’m really excited about is how the broadcasting companies and production companies create IPs that we haven’t seen before. Maybe it will be documentaries, or adding an additional production layer to the broadcast of e-sports, or finding ways to be more creative when it comes to creating content around [the industry]—that’s actually what I want to see. It might be a virtual reality experience where we can be in an online arena, watching e-sports with friends. That’s going to be really exciting to see.
Outside of that crazy idea, I think the Philippines is really set up to become the Southeast Asian hub of e-sports. We have a great pool of talents when it comes to players. In fact, Abed Yusop from Cavite is a top-ten player in Dota. For Mobile Legends, we are the reigning champions in the Southeast Asian games—we were clearly the dominant country. Furthermore, in four years we’ll have graduates of BS E-sports.
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You mentioned that the Philippines is set up to be the Southeast Asian hub of e-sports. What makes the country stand out?
I have to give the credit to the maturity of the e-sports ecosystem here [in the Philippines]. Outside of Indonesia, which is probably the closest to us in my opinion, other Southeast Asian countries are still trying to find the resources to do it full-time. In the Philippines, we have broadcasting companies, events companies—there are multiple companies that are part of the e-sports ecosystem, and all of that really contributes to a more competitive environment. And when you have a more competitive environment, you tend to produce better players. If you don’t have the money coming into the system, you won’t be able to develop a competitive environment because [the players are only pursuing e-sports] part-time. Locally, a lot of people are doing it full-time for one, and second, most of the people who are playing full-time have sports cars now. That’s the level of the monetary rewards that they’ve been getting, and I think that encourages people to dream of becoming players, which drives the industry’s development.
See more honourees in the Sports category of the Gen.T List 2021.