These books have grown my understanding of the esports industry and improved my contributions to the space. While I don’t think a single one mentions esports specifically, the lessons and examples they provided have direct parallels to the problems and challenges our colleagues are attempting to solve.
Keep in mind this list is written loosely in order of my career progression.
Please leave your own recommendations in the comment section as I’m trying to pick out my next book.
5 — The Visual Story
So much of esports is driven by video. If you’re going to live in this space, it’s important to understand what constitutes a good video product.
This book was an easy guide to explaining how visual elements can impart mood, convey story arcs, and carry your product to the next level.
My career started and is still heavily based in video and I still incorporate the concepts found in this book today.
Visual Story is structured by explaining 28 “Rules” that a producer must be aware of. Choosing to follow or break them can take your product in a slew of different directions. If your video has a specific goal, combinations of these rules can help you achieve it.
4 — Story
McKee has some ridiculous credentials. A breakdown of his student’s accomplishments:
- 60 Academy Award Winners
- 200 Academy Award Nominees
- 200 Emmy Award Winners
- 1000 Emmy Award Nominees
- 100 WGA Award Winners
- 250 WGA Award Nominees
- 50 DGA Award Winners
- 100 DGA Award Nominees
Esports is compelling to an audience because of it’s story arcs. The underdog defeating the favorite. The champion coming back to reclaim their throne. Things were bad, then they got worse. Things were good, then they got better.
Understanding how to plant hooks to keep your audience engaged directly translated to keeping my Youtube Audience watching for longer. Understanding how to design a Pay Off at the end of the story helped make my presentation decks more compelling.
Check out the spark notes here:
3 — The Second Machine Age
Brynjolfsson & McAfee
Too many times to count, at the completion of an esports project I walked away with the sentiment of “There has to be a better way to do this.”
Usually a few months or years later a service came along with that better way. These micro examples lead to the macro thesis of this book: “The pace of change is accelerating.”
After reading this book I was more clearly able to identify characteristics that successful esports service operators needed to have in order to scale, monetize, and succeed.
It also provided a perspective on the popular euphemism of “the Wild Wild West of Esports.” This industry is going to continue growing and changing. It is likely that it will continue to be unpredictable, competitive, and unique. Those that can live in an environment of change will succeed, those that hope for something more stable will be sadly disappointed.
The authors recently published an “update” to this book in the form of “Machine, Platform, Crowd” that is also a solid read. Go check it out.
2 — Platform Revolution
Parker, Alstyne, Choudary
Platforms are the most impactful business innovation of the last 20 years.
AirBnB offers the greatest amount of “Hotel Rooms” in the world without owning a single piece of hotel real-estate.
Uber is the world’s largest taxi service without owning a single cab.
This book focuses on how successful platforms are developed and operated. I picked it up midway through my run at Azubu and after going through the launch of the MLG.tv platform. It helped me compare how those services differed from other platforms in the space and what strategies should have been employed.
Esports has grown so quickly in part because it is an entertainment medium that’s relied on platforms; Twitch, YouTube, Twitter, Battle.net, Steam.
Many of the newer entrants into esports (Team Operators, TV Operators, etc) operate pipelines whose profit margins are being threatened by platform style business. They’re seeing that esports is the future and are hoping to use it to either to grow their pipelines or harness platform style growth. Both models have their pros & cons, and it is important to understand the differences and functionality of both to build a successful esports strategy.
This book influenced my blog series on “The Future of Esports.”
1 — The Hard Thing About Hard Things
Ben Horowitz is one of the principals behind the Andreessen Horrowitz VC firm. You can thank them for companies like:
AirBnB, Box, BuzzFeed, CoinBase, Facebook, GitHub, Imgur, Lyft, Skype, Slack, Twitter, & Zynga.
Prior to starting his own VC firm he ran & sold his own company for $1.6B to Hewlett Packard. This was not an easy journey for Ben and he goes into great depth discussing the difficulties he encountered along the way.
If you work in esports right now, there’s a pretty good chance the organization that employs you (or the one you run) is a start-up. Along the way you’ll see many choices being made that you may not agree with. This book explains them from the perspective of a CEO. It helped me gain empathy for the decision makers and the tough choices they have to make. It also helped me understand how to build & manage goal oriented teams effectively.
Ben’s passage on the Struggle is a must read. You can find it here on his blog: https://a16z.com/2012/06/15/the-struggle/
He was also a guest lecturer at Sam Altman’s Stanford Start Up course. Check out his perspective on management:
If you made it this far, thank you. Please leave your own recommendations below.
If you’re interested in seeing more of my work feel free to visit:www.AntonFerraro.com