There is no well-trodden path or five-step plan gamers can follow if they’re aspiring to become a professional esports player.
Most hope recruiters will notice their talent through Twitch or investigating the names at the top of leaderboards, but with millions of players, the odds of being discovered are slim.
The industry is ripe for innovators to fill that role, and one community is positioning itself to be the middle man between casual and pro play so players can have more control over their fortunes.
The Daily Walkthrough spoke with Wawa’s Boot Camp (WBC) co-founder and CEO Won Joon “Wawa” Choi and marketing lead Sol “Waltz” Lee about what WBC is, what it hopes to be and why they think they are building the bridge Overwatch players need to reach its upper tiers.
Joon and Sol explained to TheDW more than a few lofty goals — Overwatch League involvement and large-scale player development being among them — that paint the picture of a group of gamers hoping to use their personal talent and passion to create an environment to provide to others the opportunity for success.
TheDW: Before we delve into specifics, give me the 35,000-foot view on what you are doing.
Joon: I’m the co-founder and CEO of Wawa’s Boot Camp. We are providing free education in the form of gaming education and coaching to everyone between the ranges of the bottom ranks up to Grandmasters. We now have the WBC Corps, which is a higher-tier program where we provide gaming education at a more professional level so we can create equal opportunity for anyone to eventually reach that level of pro status.
Personally, this all started off because everyone on my team, we believed that anyone has the capability of reaching the Grandmaster level in Overwatch, but this applies to any game and we do have plans to move into other games.
Sol: My name is Sol, I go by Waltz in-game. Like Joon said, we basically just started out as a bunch of friends playing together. Within the game some of us were a little better than other people, so we wanted to create a community where we could help each other out. I think that’s how it all started. That’s our vision and goal, that we can be the platform or place to go to for any kind of hardcore need you have in Overwatch.
Whether it’s learning your favorite hero, more about them, or how to play them better in competitive or find people to do events or pickup games with. We want to be the platform, so we’re building that infrastructure up because we feel like there’s a need in the community for there to be one centralized place for those things. We try to look at ourselves as “By the community, for the community.”
TheDW: You have 30 seconds in an elevator. What’s your pitch?
Joon: *Laughs* I’ve never been asked that question before … It’s not just about creating the educational content for the lower-end gamers but more so to also create opportunities for individuals that are left in the dark and are trying to compete at the highest possible level.
TheDW: What pro players are part of WBC’s community?
WBC provided TheDW a list of pros that include EnVision eSports coach Mike “Packing10” Szklanny, Cloud9 coaches Dillain “LegitRc” Odeneal and Beom-joon “Bishop” Lee, Counter Logic Gaming support Jackson “Shake” Kaplan, Bazooka Puppiez tank Mihail Cristian “Meza” Păunescu and FaZe Clan flex Alexandre “SPREE” Vanhomwegen.
Players from Afreeca Freecs, Fnatic, FNRGFE, Immortals, Misfits, Renegades, Rogue, Team Liquid, Team SoloMid and Vivi’s Adventure are also involved.
Joon: The exact number right now is 151 professional players on the server. Out of those, I don’t know how many are actively helping because a lot of them have their own schedule. It’s left up to their own discretion and all of them do spend time to answer questions in our ‘Ask a Pro Coach’ text channel that we have open.
TheDW: How do people find your Discord and join? Is it free?
Waltz: The main Overwatch Reddit page has over a million people on it and the competitive Overwatch has over 100,000 people on it. A lot of the traffic we have been getting is through posting very well-polished hero guides and different articles onto those subreddits and adding our name to the bottom of them. On the side, we try to do as much social media and connecting with the community as we can. Making sure our content is available on as many platforms as possible. We are trying to create content and make it available for everyone in the community.
TheDW: How’d you both get introduced to Overwatch?
Sol: Well, for me, I never played League of Legends or anything because I know myself and I get really addicted and really into things very easily. I was like, ‘All my friends are playing all the time. I’m a college student, I can’t be doing this.’ By the time Overwatch was announced and released, I was going to be a senior so I was like, ‘OK, I have a little more time in my life to game a little bit.’ It was the right time, right game, looked pretty fun and I picked it up and connected again with Joon who I knew back in high school and took off from there.
Joon: I, on the other hand, so being the good student, was one of those people who played the game regardless of responsibility. *Laughs* So, I started off gaming since high school. I was the kind of person who got caught in the middle of the night gaming and got in trouble with my parents.
Now, I play League of Legends, Counter Strike, a lot of Korean games. As early as MapleStory in middle school. Considering all of that, Overwatch I got into because I was into FPS games with the same idea of the MOBA-style gameplay. A lot of friends talked about it and I went into it negatively, being very biased against that type of game. But as I kept playing, I realized that rather than the actual game itself, what really brought me in was the competitive aspect.
TheDW: Why do you care?
Joon: I started realizing that me, personally, I’m a very competitive gamer and I always was under the belief that people who play at the professional level were out of reach. ‘It’s never going to happen, I can’t reach that top 10 percent rank that people are always striving for.’ But once I did hit it in Overwatch myself, I realized all it really takes is real hard work and the proper guidance.
Especially with the esports scene growing to the size it is now, I believe that, sort of like a public school system with how education is accessible to everyone, esports should have the same opportunities. Considering nowadays Korea and North America are both giving out scholarships for competitive gaming … There’s a very big grey area in esports that needs to be improved.
Sol: Joon, I really like the way you put that. To add on to it, we have something for every single kind of gamer background. Whether you’re a casual gamer or competitive gamer, we have very intentionally been working on infrastructure where we can cater to the very basic players who might just be coming into Overwatch and want to find a community and know more about the game. We also have a very well-developed infrastructure for people who are looking to enter a more professional team or wanting to get more into the professional aspect of gaming.
TheDW: What do you want WBC to become?
Joon: Wawa’s Boot Camp’s philosophy and mission statement don’t just apply to Overwatch, they will carry on to other games. We’re going to create that platform across other games — competitive games only, of course. We are partnered with a gaming company known as OverTrack. They have underdone Winston’s Lab as well, who provides statistical data, and Concord.gg. We will be releasing some sort of press once they’re prepared for that.
What we plan to do is have a synergistic three-way business partnership going [where we] develop these casual gamers into competitive gamers, grow the competitive scene while afterwards also having statistical analytics to support the claims we make when it comes to how much a player has developed. Concord.gg is going to be the social media, LinkedIn of esports. You can see that process going from beginning player development — where we’re holding their hand through the entire three-business process — all the way to player acquisition.
We do actively take on a representative role for professional players and coaches, since we do have a team of analysts and professional players who help with development … People who come to us are interested in the fact that we have the appropriate networking ties to be able to create opportunities for them so they don’t get left in the dust.
TheDW: When do you plan to do a full launch?
Joon: We already started development on the website. Our expected date for the website to come up should be around early September, late August. Am I correct Sol, to say so?
Waltz: Ya. Well actually, we’re putting up our soft launch with basic setup for the website Friday, but we’re hoping for all the features to be up by around that timeline.
TheDW: How are you hoping to develop the pro scene through using your product?
Joon: What I would like for there to be is a closing of the gap between professional players and the casual competitive gamers. I think there’s too much of a gap between them. Students would be too afraid to even approach a professional player to ask them a question about getting better. Yes, they’re idolized, but at the same time they’re human beings and they work just as hard and everyone has the capability of doing so.
TheDW: Plans to work with Overwatch League? Hopes for it? Concerns?
Joon: We’ve been working with Overwatch League teams to provide them some sort of advice as to player development and what sort of routes they should take to maximize their team efficiency. So, we are also working with tier two teams and organizations and being able to provide a better tier two team for Overwatch players or gamers in general.
If Overwatch League fails, then how much of what we’ve done for Overwatch will go down the toilet? We personally believe that if it doesn’t work, it’ll go back to the same competitive scene it had earlier, which is better for the tier two players but worse for the professional scene, the higher end scene, the tier one teams.
In terms of what we think is good, I think it could revolutionize esports in general. I think that the fact that they have this MLB-style sort of league is very similar to what League of Legends has now, except Blizzard is trying their best to pretty much imitate what MLB has right now at the highest levels of esports. I look forward to it, I really do, I just hope it’s executed the right way so that it really does revolutionize esports instead of just becoming an experiment for Blizzard — an expensive experiment.
TheDW: Future ideas you want to implement?
Joon: Every business’s dream is to acquire their own office space. Wawa’s Boot Camp is running everything off of a Discord server of 5,000 people. So, office space is definitely something we’d like to look into in the future. Funding is also something we’re actively looking for considering we do have people who are very interested in us. It’s just, we need to be able to solidify a lot more before we want to move forward.
No one ever wants to give away too much before something is set in stone. Having a team together would make productivity a lot higher, along with us being able to have more funds to work with to be more flexible in our plans.