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DCE Magazine

Winter 2022

Making a Mark in Esports

Esports Management certificate program puts professionals from all backgrounds at the controls of a new career.

Elite players battle it out with skill and precision, moving and shooting in furious competition while millions of viewers follow the action. But the action isn’t on a field, it’s taking place virtually on HD screens — popular videogames like League of Legends, Fortnite and Overwatch played by some of the most skilled gamers in the world.

Esports has evolved from a hobby into a worldwide billion-dollar industry. Pro leagues have thrived. Major events draw audiences rivaling some of the biggest sporting events in the world. Major universities, including UCI, field teams and offer scholarships for top international talent.

Competitive gaming is far from just a trendy phase — it has become a significant factor in pop culture, said Jimmy Baratta, an esports consulting professional and program instructor.

“Esports is just a small subsection of the videogame industry at large, and gaming is larger than music and cinema combined,” he added. “Esports, however, is that niche audience and community interested in the competitive element. What I can say is, to paraphrase my friend and mentor Clinton Sparks, the same way hip-hop has been the nexus of popular culture for the past 10 or so years, gaming and esports will certainly serve that function for the foreseeable future.”

Consider that the industry was projected to surpass $1 billion in 2021, according to a report by Newzoo Global Market Research, with global esports viewership reaching 577.2 million by 2024, surpassing the half-a-billion mark by 2022.

Although still a nascent industry, esports has evolved to create a wealth of career opportunities, attracting business professionals from a range of fields, as well as serious gamers. Baratta is from both worlds, a former litigation attorney as well as a lifelong gamer who has built a hugely successful career with a hand in many aspects of the industry.

“In the past few years, I have experienced and seen firsthand how entertainment and gaming are coming together,” he said. “I know that this is only the beginning of a wave that will fundamentally change and reshape the entertainment industry.”

Following the passion

Baratta developed his love of gaming as a small child. While his older brother played his Nintendo NES, he would pretend to play alongside with an unplugged controller. Since then, Baratta has owned and played on nearly every console and handheld, from Gameboy and Sega Game Gear to PlayStation and Xbox.

He went on to become a successful attorney and work with his father Jim Baratta, a legendary Orange County trial lawyer. But after seven years, his passion for gaming led him on a new career path.

“Working with my father and mentor is something I’d never take back,” Baratta said. “It was a hard career to leave, but I had to follow my passion. I first looked for local companies that had open legal positions. Then I broadened my search to business development in any gaming or esports company, which was the best career decision I ever made.”

After exploring various paths, Baratta founded FT Empire, an esports consulting company that soon gained traction, allowing him to work with multiple companies and amass a wide variety of experience.

Baratta has worked with Forbes-listed organizations and advised Grammy-winning talent on live in-game events. Most recently, he added Chief Gaming Officer of Holodeck Media to his workload, along with being an investor and advisor for XSET and board member for the nonprofit North American Collegiate League. The list goes on.

Inspired to share his expertise and mentor a new generation of esports professionals, Baratta joined the program that he once briefly enrolled in, only to have his business take off unexpectedly before he could start his first class.

“I understood the value that the UCI name commanded, and the respect its esports program had already garnered for itself,” he said. “The course that I teach, Overview of Esports, prepares the newcomer and the existing business professional alike with the knowledge and tools to transition into the gaming industry. It lays the foundation, identifies networking opportunities and other resources and outlets to achieve success.”

“Esports is just a small subsection of the videogame industry at large, and gaming is larger than music and cinema combined.” Jimmy Baratta, Esports Management instructor

Getting a thumb in the door

The fully online program provides a solid background in various aspects of the industry from the standpoint of developers, athletes, fans, sponsors, and media. Students learn all the essential components in building and managing esports events, as well as how to apply project management skills and tools to plan and manage events. The program consists of four courses and can be completed in as little as six months.

Certificate program graduates will have access to DCE Career Services, a one-stop center that offers a wealth of tech resources for job seekers. Students can have their resumes reviewed and rated 24/7 with AI-powered VMock, practice job interview skills with Big Interview, and search highly targeted job and internship openings through Handshake. Students also can schedule one-on-one advising sessions to address specific issues and goals.

“Right now, there are so many types of career opportunities, it’s difficult to count,” Baratta said. “As everyone seems to be succeeding in gaming, the rising tide certainly raises all ships. A few years ago, it was all about engineers, but today if someone is talented with editing, content creation, community management, business development or marketing, there is probably a role for you in esports.”

In other words, you don’t have to be a dedicated gamer to succeed in the esports industry — but it can certainly be a plus.

“If you’re a true gamer and passionate about the space, that will shine through and set you apart from those that just see this as a hot opportunity. To somewhat paraphrase the great John Wooden, follow your passion, be yourself, and do what you love.”

Learn more about the Esports Management Certificate Program.