Nov 09 2021

Q&A: The General Manager of the Brooklyn Nets Gaming Crew on the Path to Going Pro

OG KING CURT shares how K–12 coaches can set up students for esports careers with the right technology and mindset.

With esports on the rise in K–12 schools and across the country, coaches are looking at what they can do to push their programs — and their players — to the next level.

Top-earning esports athletes in the U.S. are making millions of dollars, with 15 players having reached that income milestone in their career. On average, a player on a professional team could make around $74,000, according to SUPERJUMP, an online video game magazine.

To learn more about the ways K–12 esports programs can prepare their players for a career in esports, we talked to Ivan Curtiss, also known as OG KING CURT, general manager and head coach of the Brooklyn Nets Gaming Crew of The NBA 2K League. Success starts with district-level coaches being knowledgeable about the world and culture of esports, he says, and ultimately comes down to having the right attitude, equipment and awareness.

Click the banner below to level up your K–12 esports team with CDW's expert resources and advice.

Here’s what we learned about going pro:

EDTECH: At the K–12 level, what can coaches do to prepare students for a career in esports?

OG KING CURT: From a social standpoint, it’s about building out the character of the athletes. Let them understand the importance of being not only a great player but a great person as well. As you grow in the esports industry, you’re not just representing yourself, you’re representing your organization and the sponsors that go along with it. Who you are as a person easily can supersede who you are as a player, and that can be negative if you don’t know how to conduct yourself — from what you’re putting out there on social media to how to conduct yourself in interviews. I think a lot of that focus is just as important as working on your game.

Outside of that is just figuring out how you want to build out your facility. It’s easier sometimes, when you’re first getting started, to build out small and then grow from there. Be familiar with the brands that deal consistently with esports, whether that’s gaming chairsgaming monitors, desks and any accessories that contribute to not only the gameplay, but also streaming capabilities and things of that nature. All of that is a must. That plays a big part in who you need to collaborate with, as far as brands, to be able to get the equipment and everything you want to start your esports facility.

EDTECH: What are some of the components coaches should consider when building out their facility?

OG KING CURT: Use a dual monitor so one monitor can capture the feed and the other monitor is the one you’re playing with. Some people use more than two monitors, but two monitors is standard. When it comes streaming capabilities, Elgato is a popular capture card; that’s how most people set up their streams. Make sure you have your capture card to be able to pull the gameplay feed so you can allow it to be streamed through other services.

Along with that, you also want to make sure you have your webcams to capture the person who’s playing the game. Some people stream with it on, some people stream with it off, but it always provides better value from an optics standpoint if you’re getting footage of who’s playing the game.

DIVE DEEPER: Discover essential equipment to level up your esports program.

One thing that we have at our facility is five 60-inch TVs that not only capture gameplay while the players are playing, but that we can also use to go back and review film together as a team or to watch others stream. For me, personally, I can control a lot from my desk. I can watch the team play right from my desk, or I can operate from the TV screens as well. Especially as a coach, when you’re trying to see stuff live and speak on it in the heat of the moment, you want to make sure you’re on the same page as the players who are playing the game.

EDTECH: Why is it so important for schools to update their equipment and use these advanced components at a high school level?

OG KING CURT: From a content standpoint, you want to make sure you get the best quality you can have as far as video footage and audio. From a gameplay standpoint, you want to have the best internet you can have and the best monitors you can have. It all comes down to increasing reaction time, speeds, loads and things of that nature, so you can be your best.

Great internet and gaming monitors, that’s a necessity. You’ve got to have it. It’s important to have updated equipment because one thing changes everything. Constantly, in gaming, there are updates across systems, consoles and PCs, so you want to make sure you have the optimum equipment as much as possible to enhance your experience, whether it’s creating content or playing a game.

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EDTECH: What path can students take to playing professionally, and how can K–12 coaches help them on that path?

OG KING CURT: One of the things I love most about being part of a pro league and a pro organization is I get an opportunity to talk to those who are seeking to reach out to me and ask questions. I think what’s most important is, whatever game you love to play and you’re good at, study the pro players who play that particular game. Look at the teams that play that game, and look at the leagues.

From a coaching standpoint, you definitely want to be the person to reach out to those pro coaches and pro players and try to get as much information as you can to understand the ecosystem and how to get your players to that level. There’s a relationship that we have to create from a pro level to the grassroots level, and there has to be some type of connection, so players know what they need to do to get better and know how to get seen and recognized. There’s a ton of players out here who play the game — who play multiple games — and who are good. You have to find that avenue to get in front of the right people and get that exposure, and that’s what ultimately will take you places.

MORE ON EDTECH: Esports investments lead to scholarships and career paths.

EDTECH: How can coaches encourage and increase diversity in esports, beginning at a K–12 level?

OG KING CURT: It’s about creating interest and awareness. There are a lot of people in the world who know people play video games, but they don’t know about esports. They don’t know about competitive gaming. They don’t know that there are players making a living off of playing video games, whether it’s from competing professionally or streaming and creating content.

It’s about creating awareness in all walks of the world and creating that interest to get people to buy into it. Obviously, it takes money to create esports arenas and teams and things of that nature, but it’s something that can be very beneficial not only from a gaming aspect but from a youth standpoint. We know that there are millions and millions of kids that play video games, and one of the easiest ways to capture their attention is to add something to video games.

76%

The percentage of kids under 18 years old who play video games in the U.S.

Source: Entertainment Software Association, “2021 Essential Facts About the Video Game Industry,” July 2021

Gaming is one of the largest bonding agents in the world. No matter what color you are, no matter what your gender is or your age, gaming is something that’s universal and can bring a lot of people together. The more interest and buzz we can create to allow the game to bring people together for good and great causes, the better. Esports contributes to that in multiple ways, whether it’s women in gaming initiatives, or doing things in impoverished areas and talking to at-risk youth. Gaming plays a big part in that, and I think it will continue to, because gaming is not going anywhere. It’s not doing anything but growing, and the more people who find out what esports actually is, the better.

KEEP READING: Esports opportunities abound for girls who game.

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