Back in 2015, Jordan Eastwood and Jordan Crompton were fed up with the lack of grassroots support for esports in the UK and decided they were going to do something about it. In October this idea came to fruition wherein education and events company XIII Esports was born.
The initiative is focused on growing the UK’s grassroots esports scene with a particular focus on youth development. One of the schools they’ve worked with to date has been UTC@MediaCityUK. Here we spoke to the two Jordans about XIII’s plans, their thoughts on the UK scene right now, how it compares to others round the world and what can be done to create UK esports stars.
Esports Insider: What is being done right now in terms of youth development in the UK for esports players clearly isn’t sufficient, but how far behind are we? Which countries are leading the way?
Jordan Crompton: This is a fairly loaded question, and there are some who would argue that we perform fantastically in certain areas but it’s taken for surface value.
Back when we played it was much easier to ‘break in’ to the scene online, due to it being somewhat infant. But now the industry operates similarly to the Premier League; players are contracted and money flows left and right – but the issue we have is a lack of platforms for rising stars to stand out, and it’s something we’re trying to tackle head on. Regardless of your position, background or personality you should be given the best fighting chance to achieve your dreams.
“The UK has a serious issue in regards to developing new talent”
The UK has a serious issue in regards to developing new talent. If we look at other leading countries and regions like South Korea, America, Nordic regions they all have programs to help people get into esports as players, with a huge focus on business/corporate development for esports.
Jordan Eastwood: For the UK to not only compete but overtake, we need a strong program which fully engages today’s youth, and supplies them with a professional platform. We’ve spoken to various people who work closely with young people, and the message is clear: the war is slowly being lost. Youth engagement is getting harder, their interests have dramatically shifted and a new approach needs to be adopted.
The answer is esports, and when it comes to the UK competing at the highest levels within esports we need our youth.
We’re years behind at this point, but by making esports accessible for our youth through grassroots we can quickly flood the industry with new talent. It’ll in turn stimulate esports for the UK, bring in new investment and open up new jobs within the industry; it’s basic supply and demand.
ESI: Tell us about the idea behind XIII Esports, why you launched it and your experiences to date.
Jordan Eastwood: Both of us have been active within the esports scene since the age of 13, back then it was something new and much easier to access through online ladders or general word of mouth. Nordic regions dominated early, mainly due to network advantages and money poured in.
“The whole idea behind XIII esports is to help young people get more involved within the industry”
XIII was born from 2 key factors, we ourselves engaged with esports at the age of 13 and the general consensus out on the average age demographic for esports engagement is 13-20 year olds. Our name is personal to ourselves, but also highlights that we aim to engage with the next generation of elite from the earliest stages to ensure they have the best possible chance moving forward. XIII isn’t just us, young people are the heroes throughout.
The whole idea behind XIII esports is to help young people get more involved within the industry, giving them an access point to become the next generation of esports event specialist, agents, managers or players. We want to give our youth the full experience from small local events to major stages.
At XIII we’ve blended together esports and education, every element of our productions are managed and operated by our young people – from the journalistic aspects, coding for the website, photography, coaching, events management, camera operation.. The list honestly goes on, but this is why we differ – XIII is not just esports, it’s developing today’s youth to be better professionals every area of their lives. We simply facilitate and oversee.
We’re aiding the UK skills shortage with our approach, by equipping the next generation with a wide skillset for later life. Helping them become the best version of themselves, and having fun in the process.
We’ve already seen some incredible results, with social anxieties being melted away – the first battle to be fought for UK esports is dispersing the stigma, and it’s a fight we’re winning. The events we’ve held so far with the resources we have have been incredible, and overwhelmingly rewarding.
Jordan Crompton: The first event we held was an Overwatch tournament at Arcade Club in Bury, we had over 100 applicants with minimal marketing which just shows our reach.
We had a lot of support for our proof of concept event, with Arcade Club’s Ben Parrott helping our young people step into shoutcasting – Ben has a long history of casting for MBA, and he’s a personal friend of ours. Alongside Ben we also had Matthew Ryan, sharing his exceptional knowledge of esports rule sets and management – Matthew is another personal friend of ours, and somebody that’s now working with us to voluntarily.
Our events have proven our existence too, we’ve been saying that grassroots are the future for a while. Players that we currently have on roll are ranked Grandmaster in Overwatch, for example, and in my opinion could give some of today’s professionals a run for their money – they just need a platform, which is what we supply. Imagine how far they could go with the opportunity, coaching and training?
“Our youth managers and teams are incredible – we have absolute trust in their abilities, which allows us to stepback, oversee and allow them to take full ownership of each production element”
We’ve hosted a tonne of events since, with the most recent being a sponsored LawBreakers event with Boss Key. Our youth managers did an incredible job, the event ran flawlessly and it was honestly a true testament to the hard work and determination of out young people.
We even get to dive into a few showcase matches now and then at our events just for the fun of it, our youth managers and teams are incredible – we have absolute trust in their abilities, which allows us to stepback, oversee and allow them to take full ownership of each production element.
XIII wouldn’t be possible without the incredible young people we already have onboard, every moment is a celebration of their success and at the end of every event we take no praise – the only round of applause is to our young people: the heroes who make it happen.
ESI: How important are the GAME Belong arenas to the UK’s grassroots scene? What do you think of the company’s plans going forward, following its sale of Multiplay…
Jordan Crompton: Arenas like Belong are incredibly important, for most people right now they’re a taste of how things should be. And honestly they’re the most accessible venue out there for most.
“Arenas like Belong are incredibly important, for most people right now they’re a taste of how things should be”
GAME are helping grassroots with their arenas; some of the events we’ve hosted have been in coordination with them and their venues. It’s fine for our smaller events, but I think the biggest issue is scale. A lot of the people attending their arenas are families, or rental for kids parties. A lot of our students do pop down for a quick LAN, but that’s all there really is right now.
Jordan Eastwood: I honestly love the venues, and the idea behind them, it’s an esports environment for sure – I wish we had something like this when we were growing up. The staff are both excellent and passionate.
“Thanks to Belong there are well kitted venues available, but far from enough organisations utilising them to push the industry further”
Unless people like ourselves utilise the space there’s not much else happening, and because of that companies are unwilling to fully invest in space and equipment due to the general business orientated nature of the world.
There’s just a long way to go; for esports to really take off over here we need more. Thanks to Belong there are well kitted venues available, but far from enough organisations utilising them to push the industry further which is why they’ve become more of a casual venue. If we can promote esports more in the UK, investments will follow. Gfinity is certainly helping that, but again that is elite level competition and nothing to do with improving accessibility which is the fastest root to pushing the industry.
Jordan Crompton: I don’t think companies like GAME are doing anything wrong, we just need more organisations like ourselves to actually take full advantage of the offerings. Over here, eduction in the esports industry is lacking and a lot of this we’re tackling with XIII, we have big plans moving forward.
ESI: How do you feel esports is viewed by the public at large, and the mainstream press? Moreover do you see the XIII Esports as part of a push to better educate the public at large about the positive potential of esports?
Jordan Eastwood: Esports is now becoming more openly accepted around the world, but I still think that we’re behind in the UK. It comes down to our culture and attitude to gaming, there’s been a lack of exposure over here.
If you were to walk down the street and ask your average person for their definition, or even thoughts, you’d receive a lot of the same responses: “Isn’t that just sitting around playing games”
And, can we argue that it’s not? Of course we can. To compete at the highest level takes a monumental amount of skill, precision, dedication and general focus – tirelessly training to be the best, they aren’t just players they’re athletes. But that of course comes from somebody like myself that has competed, and also works within the industry.
If you’re not physically active, you’re not being active – that’s how people see it. The public haven’t seen the full scale production in practise, or how much work goes into it.
Jordan Crompton: It’s just like a large scale TV production. Or any mainstream sporting event you’ve been to. We have journalists, commentators, camera operators, referees, coaches, trainers, managers, events managers.. Our players are just behind a screen.
“Our project has also helped troubled youths use esports as a tool to disengage from difficult circumstances like being tied in with drugs, gangs etc”
At XIII esports we have exposed our youth to esports and enabled them to use it as a positive driver. Parents are seeing differences in their children; they’re learning new skills, becoming more confident and are generally just happier.
Our project has also helped troubled youths use esports as a tool to disengage from difficult circumstances like being tied in with drugs, gangs etc.
The walls of stigma are high, but we’ve not had an issue scaling them. Once you’ve changed the perceptions of the few, it snowballs to the many. It’s all about hard work, dedication and consistency. We’re both operating on very little sleep at this point!
Our approach makes this much easier, we’re unique and we put power in the hands of our young people. Esports can be so much more than it is today, we know that and we’re proving it through education and grassroots.
ESI: Which titles do you see as the likeliest to have UK talent performing in its top tier in the next five to ten years?
Jordan Eastwood: I’ve seen some amazingly talented UK players in Tekken, like Kaneandtrench and Rookang, who are showcasing the UK at international tournaments and I think we (the UK) already perform well in FIFA, and of course Call of Duty but we’ve met some outstanding players from other titles who simply don’t have access to anything more than matchmaking or local events.
“FIFA, Rocket League and CoD are our best targets for the short term”
Already at XIII we have SMITE and Overwatch players that I honestly believe could give some of the current professionals a run for their money even at this stage. With an actual platform, and access to real coaching they could be so much more.
FIFA, Rocket League and CoD are our best targets for the short term. The UK currently feels more console based, it’ll change over time but for now that’s just how things are.
Jordan Crompton: We’ve met some outstanding players from other titles who simply don’t have access to anything more than matchmaking or local events. We’re working on that.
We want to innovate and develop the UK grassroot scene and we are already on that path, youth are vital to UK esports growth.
There’s so much untapped potential within the UK, and the only way to reach those individuals is by focusing directly on grassroots with education being the key. We still have a lot of talent to find, turning over every single rock week in, week out.
Give us 12 months and I honestly believe we can push players, and teams towards high-tier FIFA, Overwatch and Rocket League brackets. Long term, much more – including SMITE, LoL and CS:GO.
Keep your eyes peeled, you honestly won’t believe what we have in store – XIII are coming.