For years now eSports or online or offline gaming has been given a negative tag as it has been associated with school dropouts. This stereotype makes it quite difficult for professionals such as lawyers, doctors and politicians, who are highly respected to become professional gamers or to be actively involved in the eSports industry.
It also appears that gamers have developed the mentality that the most efficient way of becoming a successful gamer is by dropping out of school. Gameindustrycareerguide.com published an article in which a troubled father asked a very resonating question which reflects the thinking of most young players. “My son is a freshman at a University with one of the top ten video game programming curriculum in the US. He says that he wants to drop out and self-teach himself to be a video game programmer. I totally disagree with dropping out of college. What do you think?”
The most important question then is, does one need to drop out of school to become a professional gamer or be actively involved in the eSports industry? In an exclusive interview with Nigeria’s Olawale Tokunbo Ogunlana, we find out how he became a gamer and the founder of Cave gaming whiles working as a professional medical doctor.
Interview with Olawale Tokunbo Ogunlana
Interviewer: Who is the brain behind Cave Gaming?
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OTO: That will be me. My name is Olawale Tokunbo Ogunlana. I’m a Medical Doctor who graduated from the Russian National Research Medical University in Moscow Russia, at age 22. I’m a practising physician currently in private practice in Lagos State. I’m married to a lovely wife, and we have a beautiful daughter.
Interviewer: What is Cave gaming?
OTO: The main focus of Cave gaming is to create media content for gaming entertainment, to organise professional eSports tournaments, gaming design and development, and many others.
Interviewer: Where is Cave gaming located?
OTO: So far, we have two branches in Nigeria. One is at Lagos State, and the other is at Mainland Lagos. But there are plans to expand our territories in Nigeria and beyond. We are planning on establishing branches in Ghana and Rwanda as well.
Interviewer: Walk us through your motivation for establishing Cave gaming.
OTO: The primary motivation has always been the need to get the youth to be properly engaged in a positive, worthwhile venture instead of being part of those who make Nigeria and Africa a world leader in poverty, criminal and fraudulent activities.
When I returned to Nigeria from Russia in 2012, I realised that many other young people shared a similar passion mostly in console gaming, but the infrastructure for competitive gaming both online and offline was not present. So I decided to take it upon myself to create a platform where gaming entertainment can provide value to real people.
Interviewer: Now let’s go back to how you became a gamer.
OTO: I have been a gamer from a young age. My first gaming console was a Nintendo Console. However, I got exposed to competitive gaming during my University days which was mostly casual with friends. This whipped up my interest in knowing more about gaming and I evolved to become more of a gaming enthusiast.
Interviewer: How do you cope with the two career openings?
OTO: I try to get a middle ground, through a synergistic partnership between them. I rely on their respective benefits in shaping and sharpening my mind.
Interviewer: Before we talk about Africa in general, talk to us about your impression on eSports in your own country
OTO: I see it as young, vibrant and ready to evolve into a massive industry for youth engagement and expression at an unprecedented growth rate.
Interviewer: Are there any signs of it growth?
OTO: I think there are. I was fortunate to be part of an eSports stakeholder meeting in Lagos State, Nigeria that brought several personalities together for just one purpose: to develop eSports in Nigeria. The stakeholders included top people in the business sector, media consultants, celebrities and local game developers.
Beside these stakeholder’s meetings, I have been very much impressed with the push for eSports within the rank of youths. The access to excellent mobile internet infrastructure has exposed young people to the opportunities in eSports and this has gone a long way in reshaping how they see gaming.
Interviewer: How do you see the African eSports industry in general?
OTO: I want to believe that the wave of trends around eSports in South Africa, Nigeria will spread fast to other countries. Africa has the world’s largest youth population, and by such statistics, eSports will play a role in Africa’s domination on new media and gaming entertainment.
Interviewer: Most importantly, walk us through some of the challenges facing the eSports industry in Africa
OTO: I think our first challenge as Africans has to do with our mentality. Up until 2012, a lot of Nigerian parents thought that being a creative personality (Actor, Musician, Artist) was a recipe for disaster in life and it appears a similar assumption is being associated with gaming. I strongly believe that we need to deal with that stigma because most people see gaming as a major distraction and not a platform for wealth creation. However, when we begin to challenge the stigma by proving otherwise, things will change.
Another challenge has to do with the lack of infrastructure and Global Inclusion. The Internet remains a costly commodity for the average Nigerian or African. We have to work towards improving internet connectivity even to rural settlements and see the internet as a fundamental right for each African. Then we have to struggle to ensure that Africans are included in global Gaming events, and this isn’t just about holding an event in South Africa. No, it’s about bringing a tournament or an event that will include at least 50% participation of African Countries.
Also, we need to ensure that global titles like FIFA 19 which are consumed by gaming fans and Africans alike must include sufficient African gaming content. For example, in FIFA it is sad to note that not many African Club teams are available for players to use. This is quite painful to see when it’s an undeniable fact that many African players play for internationally recognised teams.
Interviewer: Finally, what are Africans supposed to do in order for the continent to become a powerhouse in eSports?
OTO: I suggest that we don’t relent. We should focus on creating content that will positively reshape the mindset of the African mind towards gaming. I strongly believe that if electronic mail is regarded as a mail, then electronic Sport must be considered as a sport.
Olawale’s story simply shows that there is no need for one to quit gaming in order to become a professional gamer or to be actively involved in the eSports industry. With the needed determination and hard work, you can become a professional gamer while practising another profession.