Coach Ian Beall (left) offers advice to Jack Botash (right) and Jake Greenfeld during the first day of a day camp for gamers at the Game Gym in Potomac in August 2018.

Coach Ian Beall (left) offers advice to Jack Botash (right) and Jake Greenfeld during the first day of a day camp for gamers at the Game Gym in Potomac in August 2018.

Esports are becoming more popular in the Washington area. The region boasts multiple professional video game teams, fan clubs with dedicated followings and even an esports gym for young players to work with coaches.

As a growing industry with a solid grasp on young audiences, esports have earned the attention and dollars of local business figures like Mark Ein and Ted Leonsis, who own franchises across different esports leagues.

But it’s not just private money that’s pouring into the field: Events DC — a District authority focused on conventions and sports — has invested in esports teams and infrastructure. The authority has actively promoted the District as an esports destination, most recently with an esports-themed pop-up bar that debuted at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas this month.

Why are esports gaining popularity? And how much should the District invest in transforming D.C. into an esports capital?

Produced by Cydney Grannan

Guests

  • Josh Hafkin Founder and CEO, The Game Gym; @GameGymEsports
  • Kathleen Konno Community Manager for Justice League, a fan club for the Washington Justice Overwatch team; @SuiteKarelia
  • Rachel Kurzius Senior Editor, DCist; @Curious_Kurz

Transcript

  • 12:00:13

    KOJO NNAMDIYou're tuned into the Kojo Nnamdi Show on WAMU 88.5. Welcome. Later in the broadcast we learn about D.C.'s first chefs, the cooks and laborers from Washington's earliest years. But first, over the past few years the D.C. region has developed a lively Esports scene complete with professional teams, fan clubs and a gym for young gamers to work with coaches. Events D.C., the District sports and convention authority, has even sponsored Esport teams and put money towards spaces for live events. Joining me in studio is Rachel Kurzius. She's a senior editor at DCist. Rachel, always a pleasure.

  • 12:00:49

    RACHEL KURZIUSGood to see you.

  • 12:00:51

    NNAMDIAlso with us is Kathleen Konno. She is the community manager for the Washington Justice League, a fan club for a local Esports team. Kathleen, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:01:02

    KATHLEEN KONNOOh, thank you for having me on the show.

  • 12:01:03

    NNAMDIAnd first up is Josh Hafkin. He is the founder and CEO of the Game Gym and Esports gym for kids ten to eighteen years old. Josh, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:01:12

    JOSH HAFKINThank you for having me.

  • 12:01:13

    NNAMDILet's start with the basic question, what are Esports?

  • 12:01:17

    HAFKINEsports are any game played competitively. However, there's a distinction between, you know, the more traditional Esports like Overwatch and League of Legends, the ones that have created structures, ranking systems, leagues, tournaments and other Esports that are just played competitively. So if we got together and played Pac-Man and tried to get the high score, that's considered an Esport, but then there's also a much bigger entity and version of these different teams and organizations that are what we know as Esports today.

  • 12:01:54

    NNAMDIPac-Man, you got me, back to the 1980s (laugh). But for those who still can't quite get their head around the idea of Esports, how does it work, who does the playing and are there people watching these virtual games?

  • 12:02:06

    HAFKINDefinitely. Everybody is playing. Your grandma is playing, we're playing, kids are playing so everybody right now is riding this wave of Esports. And in terms of watching with the rise of Twitch and YouTube gaming and Mixer and a number of other platforms, one of the other interesting things that has emerged is watching people play video games. So in the very same way that we like watching people play football and basketball at a high level, we enjoy watching people game at a high level as well.

  • 12:02:39

    NNAMDIThe name itself Esports makes it seem like video gaming is a sport, but even in the Esports world you do not call the players athletes. Do you think people who are not familiar with Esports get confused by the terminology?

  • 12:02:53

    HAFKINI think the terminology takes away from the fact that what we're doing has value and it's important. And whether it's a sport or not or an athlete or not, I think that the debate should really be about, and the focus should really be on that there's an amazing amount of positivity and wonderful, you know, games and worlds that are out there for people to enjoy and find their niche and find their people. So --

  • 12:03:21

    NNAMDIForget the terminology.

  • 12:03:22

    HAFKINYeah, the terminology, I don't think, is as important. I think it's more important to show that this has value and that it's very, very meaningful in a lot of people's lives.

  • 12:03:31

    NNAMDIHow does the Esports industry make money? Is it similar to professional sports like basketball or hockey?

  • 12:03:37

    HAFKINVery similar. You know, it's sponsorship deals, it's, you know, TV and other rights. It is selling jerseys and things like that. The people investing in Esports, a lot of them are NBA team owners. They are professional football team owners and they are bringing the knowledge of the business world of traditional sports to this world of Esports.

  • 12:04:05

    NNAMDIWhat are the big teams in the District right now and what leagues do they play in?

  • 12:04:10

    HAFKINWe have a really cool growing scene here. So Monumental Sports has brought us the Wizards District Gaming and then the Capitals have an Esports team as well. D.C. United just started an Esports team. And we have also the awesome Washington Justice in the area. In addition to that we've got universities, who have, you know, Maryland's Legal Legends Team has won the big time. I think the past two years they're rock stars. Catholic University just started a team and other entities, kind of big and small, are all forming, you know, in the area.

  • 12:04:48

    NNAMDIYou mentioned D.C. United's Esports team and that's what Perez Moodley all the way in New York wants to talk about. Perez, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:04:57

    PEREZThank you for having me. I appreciate it. Yeah, just coming in actually from Virginia, but, yes, right now located in D.C. where we are full time.

  • 12:05:08

    NNAMDIAnd what is it that you like about D.C. United's Esports team?

  • 12:05:13

    PEREZWell, it's great because, you know, we just got onboard this year. We signed our first ever Esports player in December and he's been competing for us in the eMLS, which is eMLS is only their second season doing this, competing professionally in the Esports world. And in January we had our first league series. We performed pretty well out there and the viewership has been growing ever since. February we went out into Dallas for the league series too and we'll be showing up next weekend in Boston for the eMLS Cup.

  • 12:05:50

    NNAMDIWell, since Wayne Rooney came the viewership on the ground has been growing also (laugh) with the D.C. United. But thank you very much for sharing that with us. Kathleen Konno, you're the community manager of the Washington Justice's fan club, the Justice League and you were an Overwatch fan before the Washington Justice came along. What was your reaction when you heard that a team was coming to D.C.?

  • 12:06:11

    KONNOOh, it was something I was really anticipating. I was really hoping that we were going to get a team. I was actually really surprised and excited that it would be as soon as season two, because last year was the inaugural season of the entire league. And so I had already picked a few favorite teams from that, like, roster of teams. But all of that went out the window as soon as I heard that D.C. was going to have their own team.

  • 12:06:40

    NNAMDIYou're a gamer and you have played Overwatch yourself. What drew you to Overwatch in particular?

  • 12:06:46

    KONNOWell, I had been following other games from the same company, which is Blizzard. And when they had released information that this game was going to come out around 2016 I was definitely onboard. I played in the Beta and I knew it was a team-based competitive shooter game. And that was really interesting to me, because every player has their own role so I knew there would be a lot of different opportunities for me to try to develop different skills.

  • 12:07:21

    NNAMDIPart of what sets the Overwatch league apart from other Esports leagues is that the teams are tied to a city similar to professional sports. But the team itself, the players, coaches and management are all based in Southern California. What's it like to support a team that's not actually based in the area that you're living in?

  • 12:07:38

    KONNOWell, yeah, that does have a bit of a challenge in that we know they're all on a different time zone and doing their own thing away from us. But really then it turns the focus inward to our own community and where we're present and our support.

  • 12:07:55

    NNAMDIWe got a question on our website from Bill. Are there Esport teams, leagues in the Washington area high schools? Do you know, Josh?

  • 12:08:05

    HAFKINThey're starting. There's a company called Play Verses that is partnered with the National High School Association of American which gives people the ability to become an all American in Esports. So these guys are bringing their program to, I think they're in 15 states now. They're going to be expanding and soon every high school will have these sports. Right now, a lot of what you see is either club teams or people who are dedicated. I know the guys at Gaithersburg High School in Maryland are working really hard to start their own squad. So it's a lot of just dedicated individuals, but soon it will turn into a formal league and, you know, kind of formalize its structure.

  • 12:08:48

    NNAMDIRachel Kurzius, as local business people like Mark Ian have also been jumping in. Mark Ian, as many know, is an entrepreneur and investor. He owns Washington City Paper. He founded and owns the Washington Kastles tennis team. And he purchased an Overwatch League team, the Washington Justice. Also Ted Leonsis, owner of the Capitals and the Wizards. They've both been buying franchises and different video game leagues. Clearly this is big.

  • 12:09:13

    KURZIUSYes. It's absolutely big money. There is an analysis that just came out from a market research firm that says that in 2019 Esports is expected to have a market in the range of about $1.1 billion across the globe. So this is definitely big money.

  • 12:09:32

    NNAMDIEvents D.C. has also been investing in Esports. First, can you tell us what Events D.C. is and what it does for the city?

  • 12:09:39

    KURZIUSYeah, gladly, Kojo. So Events D.C. is a quasi-public private partnership that is in charge of D.C.'s tourism, events, entertainment and sports arm. So the National Cherry Blossom Festival, that's Events D.C. Stewardship of the Convention Center and of RFK Stadium, that's also Events D.C.

  • 12:10:02

    NNAMDINationalist Park too, right?

  • 12:10:03

    KURZIUSYes. Yep, they're in Nationalist Park, part of D.C. Armory. And their major role is trying to drum up tourism in D.C. and get people involved in coming to and staying in the city.

  • 12:10:16

    NNAMDISo why is Events D.C., largely funded by our taxpayer dollars, why is it investing in Esports?

  • 12:10:24

    KURZIUSWell, if you ask Events D.C. what they say is they see a huge opportunity here. They say that this is a market growing faster than a lot of professional sports teams, right. We're seeing decreases in a lot of audiences for football, for baseball. And yet Esports, particularly among the younger generations, continue to grow. I think that around 75 percent of people overall across age ranges haven't watched an Esport tournament. But if you look at the younger generation, that statistic flips and most of them have either watched or participated in Esports.

  • 12:10:58

    KURZIUSSo what Events D.C. is seeing here is an opening and they're trying to get in early and say, if we establish D.C. as the capital of Esports, money is going to follow, tourism is going to follow. And, yes, to your point, the money from Events D.C. is coming largely -- they steward a budget of more than $150 million annually and that money is going in large -- not in large part, but is certainly going towards drumming up interest in a larger community for Esports here.

  • 12:11:32

    NNAMDIEvents D.C. recently went to the South by Southwest Festival to support the city's Esports presence. You wrote about this in a DCist article that came out yesterday. How did Events D.C. do that?

  • 12:11:43

    KURZIUSYeah, so this was Events D.C.'s third consecutive year at South by Southwest, which is a really popular arts and technology festival in Austin. They were among other D.C. agencies, who were also in attendance. And what they did was host a popup bar, which included different cocktails themed after Yoshi and after other D.C.-based Esports teams. And this was done in conjunction with Drink Company. Listeners may know Drink Company as the group that has a slew of various popup bars on 7th Street Northwest close to the Shaw Metro.

  • 12:12:24

    KURZIUSAnd that Esports popup bar, which was a one-night only venture at South by Southwest, is coming to D.C. later this summer in July and August for almost a gateway for people who might otherwise have said, I don't really know about Esports, I don't really get what's going on. What Derek Brown the president of Drink Company said is that, well, going out to drink with a friend is a pretty easy lift. So you might go out for a drink with a friend and say, what is this interesting rue? It's an Overwatch map. What is that? Maybe I should watch that. So that's their intent with this popup bar.

  • 12:13:02

    NNAMDISo that's why Events D.C. is doing it, but have they gotten any pushback for it?

  • 12:13:08

    KURZIUSI think that the pushback that Events D.C. has gotten for investing in Esports is largely the pushback you see when it comes to any kind of investment, public investment I should say, in sports. For all of the talk about it drumming up tourism, job opportunities, there are a lot of questions as to whether that money actually goes back to citizens and residents of those towns. So I don't think that there's, you know, aside from people scoffing at the idea like, Esports, that's not sports, the bigger question is, should there be an organization that isn't subject to a lot of the same transparency as other public institutions putting so much money towards events and sports?

  • 12:13:52

    NNAMDIHere's Connor in Ellicott City. Connor, your turn.

  • 12:13:56

    CONNORHey, how you guys doing today?

  • 12:13:57

    NNAMDIPretty well.

  • 12:13:59

    CONNORGood, good. I had a question. What I've noticed about electronic sports is it seems to follow a similar trajectory that electronic music has in that at first it just kind of went unnoticed or ignored or maybe made fun of. But as it gains popularity it starts to grow greater accessibility. You don't need to be able to run to play a video game. Also the diversity of niche, of the teammates of the players themselves, the responsibility that each player takes on actually grows quite exponentially.

  • 12:14:32

    CONNORThe immersive experience of the viewer hasn't even been tapped into yet. Instead of having a camera following players around you can pretty much explore every nook and cranny of a map. And then finally one thing is that we can integrate classical sports with electronic sports and make a conglomeration that hasn't even been thought up yet. In the light of these ideas that I've put forward I wanted to know what your experts thought on Esports surpassing regular sports and popularity, because of the accessibility. And then as a personal note, I was wondering if any of you guys know of any upcoming excitement in the Esports realm that we don’t' know about yet that you're willing to share.

  • 12:15:18

    NNAMDIKathleen Konno.

  • 12:15:19

    KONNOSo, yeah, there is a lot that is going to be coming up. I can speak to that as well as the accessibility. I mean, a lot of our watch parties we've held have been really accessible to the public, because we can watch Overwatch especially on Twitch.TV which is a videogame streaming service. And just the ability to, you know, not have that pay wall, not have it behind cable it really helps people who can watch from all over the world. And we have an online community as well as an in-person community. And people have been able to follow the games at the same time so that definitely speaks to the accessibility. And, yeah.

  • 12:16:06

    NNAMDIRachel Kurzius, is this possible for the industry to surpass classic sports in popularity?

  • 12:16:12

    KURZIUSI think when you see as many billionaires as we've seen recently investing in Esports, they're looking at numbers that are telling them that this is a good investment. And I certainly think that it's possible. It'll be interesting to see as more and more people understand what Esports are and how they can participate in them, whether that will be in addition to their regular diet of say the MBA or NFL or NHL, or whether it will replace it.

  • 12:16:45

    NNAMDIWell, let me raise the enthusiasm level, Josh Hafkin (laugh).

  • 12:16:49

    HAFKIN(laugh) So I think that Esports has a long way to go. I think that, you know, the Knicks sell out Madison Square Garden on a Tuesday when they play the Kings. And, you know, both of those franchises are struggling. And, you know, they can still sell out their arena. Legal Legends, you know, will go and -- or Overwatch or these other ones, we'll sell out arenas a couple times a year. So there is a big difference between online viewership and live viewership.

  • 12:17:21

    HAFKINSo in terms of online viewership, you know, Esports events. Legal Legends, world championships is drawing in just as many eyeballs as the World Series, the MBA Finals and more than the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs. But we're not filing up stadiums. We're not -- you know, there's an element of things that is in terms of the online versus the live, that still has a disconnect. And, you know, what we're doing with the Washington Justice and at the game gym is we're trying to drum up that local and the ground support.

  • 12:17:59

    NNAMDIGot to take a short break, when we come back we'll continue this conversation talking about an Esports game gym. Still taking your calls at 800-433-8850, if the lines are busy you can shoot us a Tweet @kojoshow or send us an email to kojo@wamu.org. Do you think the District should be investing in Esports? Why or why not? You can also go to our website kojoshow.org, ask a question or make a comment there. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

  • 12:18:50

    NNAMDIWelcome back. We're exploring D.C. becoming an Esports city with Rachel Kurzius. She's a senior editor at DCist. Kathleen Konno is the community manager of the Washington Justice League, a fan club for a local Esports team. And Josh Hafkin is the founder and CEO of the Game Gym an Esports gym for kids ten to eighteen years old. And that's what we're going to talk about now, the Game Gym in Potomac. It's a gym for video games. How does that work?

  • 12:19:18

    HAFKINSo what we identified is that there are a bunch of kids growing up playing video games. And one of the issues that people are having is kids behaving online, you know, learning how to do -- learning this world, learning how to put the game down. And a lot of the issuers we're facing is, because there's no supervision. Unless you have a parent, an older brother or sister who, you know, knows how to play the game and can help guide you through that process, most kids are figuring it out for themselves. And we saw that as an opportunity.

  • 12:19:54

    HAFKINWhat we try to do is we try to teach the Xs and Os how to play the game, but also we're really focused on mentorship. We all grew up -- a lot of us grew up playing traditional sports and my coaches were the most influential people outside of, you know, my direct family for me. And, you know, they helped push me, they kept me in line, they, you know, were shoulders to lean on. And kids, who play video games don't have that resource.

  • 12:20:19

    HAFKINSo, you know, what we're focusing on is that ten to fourteen age range when people start to play games online, start to play games together. We're providing them, you know, not just the structure of, here, come in and we're going to work on this and execute this skill on this day, but also just having a coach and a mentor. A lot of kids these days, the people that they look up to are online. It's Ninja, who's a very big popular Fortnight streamer or other people like that. And, you know, there are good mentors online, but it's not like you or I where, you know, you're in the neighborhood. Somebody local understands where you grew up and what you're going through, who can talk to you.

  • 12:21:00

    HAFKINSo our emphasis is not just the Xs and Os, but a lot on mentorship, leadership skills, communication skills, learning how to be a good winner, be a good loser. And, you know, you can learn all of those wonderful skills through Esports now.

  • 12:21:17

    NNAMDIYou mentioned coaching. Let's talk with Andy Nekrich, who identifies as a coach at the Game Gym. Andy, you're on the air. Go ahead. What do you do?

  • 12:21:27

    ANDY NEKRICHWell, me, myself, Kojo, thank you for having me, I coach Overwatch at the Game Gym. My main mission statement, especially in the realm of Overwatch, like Josh was wonderfully putting, is not only how do you succeed in winning, but how do you also find success in losing? It's kind of taking the branch a little bit further, building that bridge along the way from sports to Esports. And what comes in the term of sportsmanship is something that me and Josh kind of pal around with what we call Esportsmanship.

  • 12:21:56

    ANDY NEKRICHAnd what Esportsmanship is kind of just that, right? You kind of just learn from your losses, you learn from your mistakes, but how do you actually get better from that? It all kind of goes hand in hand. What I teach in Overwatch is kind of how I feel about when I was growing up. I didn't play many sports. I bowled. I played tennis. I played a little bit of baseball too. But what I represent mostly from my childhood is music and there's always practice. We call it the quote unquote "the grind" in Esports.

  • 12:22:25

    ANDY NEKRICHAnd what that essentially means is how you do it in a healthy and composed manner. How do you actually become better? How do you actually practice at the game and how do you aspire all of these small short term and long terms goals?

  • 12:22:38

    NNAMDIThank you very much for sharing that with us, Andy. I want to move onto someone who is a member of the gym to talk about the effect it has on her family. Hi, Katy. Katy in Potomac, Maryland, you're on the air.

  • 12:22:50

    KATYHi, Kojo. Thanks for taking my call. Hi, Josh, how are you doing?

  • 12:22:54

    HAFKINHey, thank you so much for calling in.

  • 12:22:57

    NNAMDIHe's doing better now that you called, yes.

  • 12:23:00

    KATY(laugh) Yeah. Kojo, my son Connor is a member of the Game Gym. He's about to turn 14 and I have to say the change in him in the last year after joining the Game Gym has been huge for us. My husband and I were both college athletes. We wanted traditional sports for our children. Our kids have had either a ball or a bat in their hands since they could walk. And Connor went that path too, but there was no passion in him for that. We saw there was a struggle to get him to games, there was a struggle for him to be happy about his performance.

  • 12:23:34

    KATYBut the thing that he was always passionate about was gaming. And that's when we saw him really kind of take off. He came to us with this flyer for the Game Gym. I thought it was a joke (laugh). As a parent it didn't make any sense to me. I'm like, why would I allow my kid to play more video games. This seemed to be always something that we were trying to limit with him. But as I got to talk to Josh, and he has lots of great programs on educating parents about Esports, I realized that it's very similar to regular traditional sports in terms of participation and sportsmanship and really more about passion.

  • 12:24:16

    KATYAnd Connor goes to the Game Gym two days a week, occasionally on Fridays for tournaments. We have taken him to tournaments in Virginia. And that's where I've seen him really flourish. And I always said to him, you know, this comes so easily to you, Connor. He goes, no mom, I work really hard at this. Like this is something that he works really hard at and this is something that he excels in. And it's been a wonder to watch him sort of flourish in this last year, because of it.

  • 12:24:43

    NNAMDII'm so glad to hear you say that and thank you very much for your call. Because Norma emails, "I'm a bit upset that you're giving Esports airtime. Esports is not good for young men." I guess she also means young people. "Nobody is going to persuade me that being seated in front of a screen for several hours is better than running, kicking the ball or dribbling the ball, shame on the business community." I'm going to put this both to you, Josh and you, Kathleen. Why is being seated in front of a screen for several hours better or as good as running, kicking the ball or dribbling the ball?

  • 12:25:17

    HAFKINIt's not (laugh). That's the thing. What we promote and I think that the stereotype about gaming is that if you game you're going to become a basement dweller and you're going to become overweight and all of that. And if you look at a lot of pro Esports athletes, they are not overweight and a lot of them are in really great shape. If you want to be good at Esports you have to treat your body right. You have to get good sleep.

  • 12:25:43

    HAFKINYou know, one of the things that we kind of teach our members is, just like going to the gym and trying to make your biceps bigger, you can't go and lift biceps every day. You have to put the weight down, you have to let your body rest, recover and then come back and lift biceps again. Gaming is the same way. You can't be at your peak for hours and hours and hours. So, you know, perfect practice makes perfect. If you're practicing when you're exhausted, when your mental state is not positive, that's not the best headspace to be practicing in.

  • 12:26:14

    HAFKINSo it's not about putting in ten hours in one day. It's about putting in an hour of really good work for a number of days consistently, very much like other sports. What we see is balance is important in Esports and in traditional sports. I was a swimmer. I know plenty of people whose lives were thrown out of balance, because they invested too much in their sport and they let their life get out of whack. Same thing that happens with gymnasts and other things like that. If you sign up your kid for gymnastics it doesn't mean that they're going to develop an eating disorder.

  • 12:26:46

    HAFKINIn the same way that, you know, you sign your kid up for Esports it doesn't mean that they're going to become a basement dweller. I think that, you know, unfortunately Esports is, you know, characterized by its most negative attributes instead of some of the more positive attributes that it has.

  • 12:27:00

    NNAMDIKathleen, how do you maintain that balance in your life?

  • 12:27:02

    KONNOYeah, well, I have to say like as a spectator and a casual player, Esports is a recreation activity just like anything else. If you would go to the park and just throw around a ball with your friends, if you would go to the local bar and watch any other sports game, like anything else it is a matter of balance. And it is something that enriches your life, because you're meeting other people, you're forming a community around it. And, you know, it just really fills like a hole for a lot of people of something that they're interested in, even if it is a more passive activity.

  • 12:27:39

    NNAMDIHow about the spectator aspect of it? Why do you enjoy watching Esports competition?

  • 12:27:44

    KONNOI have to say that as a spectator, like Esports, there are so many different things going on that every moment is really quite exciting, at least in Overwatch. And I know it doesn't go for all Esports, but you'll always have the different team players that are doing different things. You're trying to figure out what are the strategies that are going on. And of course, you know, every time you get a point or a victory that's really what you live for as a spectator. And just hearing the crowd in a room with you at the watch parties that we've had has been just so exciting.

  • 12:28:22

    NNAMDIJosh, one problem that's often mentioned with gaming is issues with bullying. How does the Game Gym address that?

  • 12:28:29

    HAFKINWell, there's a couple of things that we do. One of the things is that it's not just one thing. It's a million things. We've got coaches promoting and being great mentors. We bring in professionals, who reemphasize the, you know, lessons that we teach. There's a sign on the way out of the Game Gym that says, "You could be anybody you want to be online, be somebody you're proud of." So that's the last thing the kids see when they leave our space.

  • 12:28:56

    HAFKINSo, you know, it's not just one thing. Kids need consistency and they need repetition. And we are not a cure all. We are not a -- you know, if your kid has a video game addiction and you bring them to the gym, that's not what we do. What we do is we put people through a season of training very much like soccer or basketball. Through the ups and downs of that season you learn about yourself, you grow, you develop relationships with your teammates and your coaches and you work towards a goal. So I do think that, you know, for me it's the repetition and the consistency of having good mentors and a good message.

  • 12:29:37

    NNAMDIKathleen, you are a woman, who has played Overwatch. Have you experienced any gender-based discrimination, any bullying while playing?

  • 12:29:44

    KONNOYes, I have. It is something that happens in competitive games in general. I think really a lot of competitive settings have the opportunity to not encourage, but kind of allow bullying and harassment to happen. So, yes, I have experienced that and on the basis of my gender.

  • 12:30:07

    NNAMDIOn now to Adam in Winchester, Virginia. Adam, your turn.

  • 12:30:12

    ADAMThank you. How's everybody doing? I'm calling from the Shenandoah Valley out here in Winchester and I'm a graduate student at Shenandoah University studying performing arts leadership and management. And I just wanted to let you guys know that Shenandoah University has an Esports track for undergraduates with a management major, media and communications as well as a Esports management minor and performance studies minor. And they also have a team and they've also established a center for immersive learning, which is augmented in virtual reality training as well undergraduate degree program. And that'll be enrolling for 2019 in the fall.

  • 12:30:57

    NNAMDIOkay. Thank you very much for sharing that with us. But, Josh, professional Esports players spend a lot of time practicing. Apparently sometimes between eight and fourteen hours a day and they can actually get injuries. How does that happen? Video gaming is not exactly a contact sport.

  • 12:31:15

    HAFKINYeah, there are, you know, hand issues, posture issues. Some of the things that we try to teach people at a young age that, you know, you've got to take care of your body regardless of what, you know, your sport is. I think that what we really try to do is bring in experts. There are these amazing people 1HP and my friend Kate Magee, who is a gaming specific physical therapist who, you know, has found this amazing niche. And she's helping people with all kinds of issues from carpal tunnel, hand issues, posture issues and things like that.

  • 12:31:54

    HAFKINAgain, a lot of people start this world and are, you know, getting to be 14, 15, 16 before they're learning about posture or health or balance or these kinds of things. So it really is about making sure that we're teaching things -- these more positive elements early so that people don't have those kinds of injuries, but if they do exist we've got wonderful resources to help out.

  • 12:32:19

    NNAMDIRachel Kurzius, do you see the District growing into an Esports capital?

  • 12:32:23

    KURZIUSIt certainly seems like there have been a lot of investments already made from the entertainment in the sports arena that opened in the fall in Congress Heights which has a pretty intense focus on making sure that Esports competitions are hosted there to the different teams and events that we've heard so much about and training facilities. I'm not sure what it takes to become the Esports capital particularly, when so many of the teams, like we mentioned earlier, are not based physically in the District. So I'm curious what the other panelists thing about what actually makes something an Esports capital and whether you see that D.C. is--

  • 12:33:02

    NNAMDI(overlapping) In 30 seconds or less, we're running out of time.

  • 12:33:05

    KONNOSo, yeah, I'd like to just speak to that. Coming up in the next year in 2020, the Washington Justice team is actually going to be based out of D.C. They've just made the announcement that the local franchises will be moving to the city.

  • 12:33:20

    NNAMDIWill my grandma be able to get on that team, Josh?

  • 12:33:22

    HAFKINIf she's good enough (laugh).

  • 12:33:25

    NNAMDIDo you see Washington becoming an Esports capital?

  • 12:33:27

    HAFKINI do. I think, you know, there's so many opportunities out there, you know, for people to start creating tournaments, creating content. You know, there's a lot of hungry, passionate people. This area has a lot of smart, you know, very hungry people, who definitely see this as an opportunity. And, you know, whether it's starting a team in your high school or a college, creating some kind of content online or a podcast or, you know, joining up with these already existing groups, there are a ton of opportunities. And I think if the hungry people keep pushing and keep pushing then we'll definitely get there.

  • 12:34:07

    NNAMDIThat's all the time we have. Josh Hafkin, Kathleen Konno, Rachel Kurzius, thank you all for joining us. We're going to take a short break. When we come back we'll learn about D.C.'s first chefs, the cooks and laborers from Washington's earliest years. But you can start joining the conversation now. Give us a call, 800-433-8850. What old recipes have been passed down to you? What underappreciated cooks and laborers should be honored for their contribution? 800-433-8850. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

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