Esports are quickly seizing collegiate communities, and with demand growing, the new opportunities for aspiring gamers and professionals looking to work in the industry have increased as well. For Ben Bramly, head coach of esports at Keyano College, working in the esports industry means tutoring others and helping them reach their full potential.
His path has placed him in different positions across the industry, and his vast experience now comes to Keyano College, where Ben is keen on helping players improve their game and reach the next level.
Collegiate esports is growing more competitive by the year, but with Ben at the helm, Keyano College's teams can rest assured that they have a passionate and knowledgeable individual looking out for them. We have had the chance to catch with Ben, who was kind enough to answer a few questions for the Esports Grizzly team.
Q: Looking at your experience in esports, you have already been involved with different organizations promoting competitive video gaming. How much of this experience is relevant to your position as a head coach?
A: I think my varying experiences will be very useful now in a job that combines all those prior experiences into one position. I've done a lot of volunteer, contract, or full-time work in many fields of esports, and now I'll be able to combine that into this one position. From managing teams, running events, running esports arenas, and much more.
Q: Your professional experience includes a stint as a Rocket League coach, a game that clearly has fans on the collegiate level. Do you find it daunting that you will be now coaching people to play different games, such as VALORANT, Smash Bros., and Call of Duty?
A: Although most of my coaching experience is in Rocket League, I've still devoted a lot of time to keep my knowledge of all the major esports titles up to date. I'm excited to show that I'm capable of helping athletes from each title improve! I also think more so than just having the game knowledge, and I'll be able to help each player improve their own personal improvement with different training tactics as well as help with watching back gameplay and looking for improvement themselves.
Q: Is the ultimate goal winning tournaments and training high-level professional gamers, or will the focus remain on skills that go beyond competitive gaming and can be taken elsewhere later on when students graduate?
A: Our goals are split into three main pillars. Of course, building a program through Athletics and offering scholarships means Keyano College is taking the competitive side seriously and wanting us to find success in tournaments. But that's not all of it. The second pillar is focusing on the community at the school and in Fort McMurray and Alberta as a whole, pushing the esports community to become bigger and better. We really want to be the force that pushes Alberta to grow to the levels of Ontario or BC, and eventually even to what we're seeing in the US and across the world. Our third pillar is the Academic side. This fall, we are starting a new Business Admin program that focuses on Esports and will help prepare students for careers in the esports space. We think each pillar will help push the others forward and, combined, hopefully, make Keyano a powerhouse in the collegiate space.
Q: In a recent interview, you said that esports move at a much quicker pace than traditional sports. Do you expect esports to be taken a little more seriously by mainstream sports bodies, and perhaps the Olympic movement, any time soon?
A: I think that wave is slowly starting already. As more generations start growing up with esports and accepting it as a reality, the world as a whole will become more accustomed to it. I think we could see it officially at the Olympics in the next 10-15 years. There will always be people who deny it as a sport or hate that it exists, but it's moving in the right direction, and I think people who think like that are already the vocal minority on this one.
Q: As someone who has been in and around esports for so long, what do you think the key takeaways from a successful pursuit of esports are in terms of soft and hard skills that student-gamers can later on use in life?
A: I think the most important thing for students wanting to get into esports is to figure out what exactly they want to do in esports. I see so many people who just want “to be in esports” but don't really have any clue what they are actually interested in. There are so many aspects to esports, just like traditional sports, that are available, and being able to focus on one thing and hone your skills will help you improve, as well as ensure you will actually be happy where you end up in the industry.
Q: Is Keyano College going to dominate the collegiate esports scene in Canada and beyond?
A: The administration and athletics departments at Keyano have given me a lot of firepower to make that happen, and I think over the next few years, we will do just that. I think we'll be more competitive than people expect right out of the gate, and as we continue to grow, we'll get even better. We're looking forward to showing some of the biggest programs in Canada what we have to offer!