While many gamers have ambitions of making it into the professional eSports scene, the actual percentage that earns a reasonable living simply by playing is quite small. Even then, unless you’re on a premiere team in a high-paying game, most eSports athletes are required to supplement their income with coaching, casting, streaming, or even less-than-honorable methods like boosting other players.
Even though coaching might be one of the more steady and legitimate opportunities, the idea of corporate eSports coaching is a topic I have always been skeptical about. I mean, what audience is truly the target of coaching services and who can actually benefit from it? Obviously, professional teams should have a coach; an additional set of eyes and source of advice can be paramount. However, coaching can be expensive and is it really worth it for the average player?
To help answer these questions, supplementing my previous eSports experience, I discussed coaching with Gamer Sensei co-founder William Collis and participated in a couple of Heroes of the Storm training sessions with professional commentator Michael ‘KendricSwissh’ Kratzel.
What is Gamer Sensei?
Gamer Sensei is an eSports coaching platform that has been around for nearly a year. It allows players to seek help for a variety of different games including: League of Legends, Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm, World of Tanks, Overwatch, StarCraft II, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Once an individual has selected their game and time, a number of coaching options become available. Some coaches are high-tier players, who have to go through a screening process, that charge between $10-20 an hour, but there are even professional coaches, such as Alberto ‘Crumbzz’ Rengifo (Apex Gaming head coach), that can be hired for upwards of $200/hour.
“The idea for Gamer Sensei grew out of my own struggle to improve as a gamer! I’d been playing on an amateur Heroes of the Storm team, and doing everything I could to get better,” said Collis. “I was watching Twitch, reading guides, researching – and nothing was working! I have plenty of experience with these types of games, so it’s not like I was a ‘noob.’ But I was definitely the weakest link in my group, and I knew I was holding my teammates back from more competitive play.
I got so desperate I started randomly messaging streamers – asking them if they’d watch me play and let me know what I was doing wrong. Eventually, one of them said yes – and as soon as the “lesson” began I had this huge “AHA!” moment. Talking to an expert player and getting targeted, personal advice instantly helped me fix many of the major flaws in my game. At that point, I called up my co-founder (and best friend) Rohan – and told him we had to start this business! I thought it was crazy that a professional service didn’t exist to help gamers find coaches. You can get piano lessons, baseball coaching, swim classes – why not gaming lessons?”
Is it Worth it?
The value of coaching sessions really comes down to the individual and how much disposable income they have. Technically, anyone can benefit from coaching as long as they have an open mind, but the real question is whether or not a player can get their money’s worth.
During my eSports stint with Heroes of the Storm I had a few ‘coaches,’ but many of them were simply players who weren’t good enough to compete themselves. I never had the experience with a truly professional coach that could improve my performance in real-time and provide usable post-game analysis.
I can honestly say that my time spent with Kendric was both enjoyable and helpful. He was polite, professional, and went into specific detail regarding hero picks, map choices, and strategy. Being a Master level player and eSports caster, Kendric shared not only his knowledge as a good player but also macro level advice that would only be obvious to someone who constantly watches high-level gameplay.
I might have a solid win rate and decent MMR in HotS, but I definitely still have shortcomings and problem areas. We went over my goals as a player then discussed the current meta, top hero picks and who should be prioritized on which maps. I was then challenged to play heroes that I wasn’t particularly familiar with and learned new strategies to counter currently strong team compositions.
A lot of this information was specific for me and to Heroes of the Storm, but there were also some lessons about online play in general. While climbing the ELO ladder, the most important things can be good communication and a positive attitude. That might sound a little trite, but we’ve all seen sure wins turn into losses due to miscommunication or teams pull together for an impossible comeback. The fact is that ‘ELO Hell’ doesn’t really exist and most players are either held back by their individual skill or poor attitudes; it’s possible for anyone to go from Bronze to Master League with a solid understanding of game mechanics and the right mindset.
Maybe I can take that advice and finally advance from Diamond in Master League, which is my personal goal. Using coaching lessons to advance one or two tiers is more realistic than thinking it’s going to make you the next eSports star. However, that does happen from time to time, but it’s not a realistic expectation.
Very few people ever ‘make it’ in the eSports scene and even fewer can actually create a meaningful career out of it. Therefore, in order to get the most out of a coaching service like Gamer Sensei, it’s important to set an obtainable goal. If you expect to immediately reach the pro scene and don’t make it, you could feel like your time or money was wasted. Coaching services aren’t for everyone, but it does seem like the Gamer Sensei team is dedicated to delivering a quality service for those who are interested.
“This is a business by gamers, for gamers,” Collis concluded. “Gamer Sensei is the best place to improve at eSports, plain and simple. We have the world’s largest and best pool of pro coaches, and we actively work to manage and improve this community. When you choose Gamer Sensei we guarantee you’ll have an amazing, consistent and quality experience.”
Related: Dota 2, eSports, Heroes of the Storm, Interview, League of Legends, MOBA, Overwatch