RIYADH: The second Next World Forum has shed light on some of the most pressing issues facing organizations and players in the esports field, bringing together international experts for the event in Riyadh.
One of the panels discussed the wider relationship between the Olympics and esports in the presence of several specialists including Timo Krueger, national director of esports and gaming at Nielsen, Jan Paterson, managing director of NEOM’s sports sector, Hicham Chahine, CEO and founder of professional esports organization Ninjas in Pyjamas, and Matt Woods, CEO and co-founder of esports news and media company AFK.
The first Olympic Esports Week was held in Singapore this year with more than 100 athletes from around the world competing in 10 virtual sports. However, the International Olympic Committee and Olympic Esports Series came under fire from some quarters of the gaming industry for choosing games they claimed were not truly representative of the spirit of esports.
Panellists noted the need to give video games a chance in the Olympics realm by making them more aligned with Olympic sports.
Another panel discussion addressed the future of gaming and esport facilities, and included speakers Mike Milanov, chief operating officer of Team Liquid, Mossad Al-Dossary, FIFA esport player and co-founder and chairman of Team Falcons, Arnab Bhattacharya, strategy director at the Qiddiya project, and Joachim Haraldsen, adviser at Steinbukken.
The Qiddiya project aims to make the destination a global hub for gaming and esports with a year-round calendar of events.
Speaking at the panel, Bhattacharya said: “There are plans to have Gamers8 there for two months, but also there’s going to be a whole bunch of other events as well.
“We’re planning to have a whole bunch of gaming and esports hotels. There are plans for bootcamp facilities to train in Qiddiya. And lastly, we’re also thinking of having permanent headquarters, of course for the local teams, but also for international teams to set up their regional headquarters,” he added.
On esports training facilities, Milanov said that such resources had only recently started to take off in the West.
“Around 2016, 2017, a lot of teams were still in villas or gaming houses, they were practicing out of the living room or where they were living with their teammates. And we were one of the first organizations at Team Liquid to make that change,” he added.
He pointed out that Team Liquid wanted to professionalize the work environment and strike a balance between working and living.
“An esports training facility includes everything from your back-office staff, graphics designers, marketing team, social media, finance, accounting, and HR executives, and most importantly, state-of-the-art technology and screen rooms for the various esports.”
Milanov said: “We do a lot of focus on sports psychology, communication, mental health, and sleep. Also, things such as reaction speed, cognitive function, eye tracking. It’s actually quite amazing.”