On July 28, American teenager Kyle Giersdorf won US$3 million as the top player in the Fortnite World Cup, a tournament featuring the popular video game. In August, Tyler Blevins – better known as Internet video game streamer Ninja – revealed that he made more than US$12 million in 2018 on his channel playing Fortnite. With numbers like that, it is no mystery why the Jamaica eSports Initiative (JEI) has been making as much effort as it can to solidify Jamaica’s piece of the competitive gaming pie.
Formed in July 2018, the gaming entity, under the determined guidance of chairman and CEO Gregory Moore, has held fast on its primary aim to cement global recognition for the country in the eSports arena.
“JEI was founded due to the lack of structure, unity, integrity, direction and governance for an industry with immense potential and a community that has existed since the 90s,” said Moore.
He is joined by Andrew Johnson, vice president and eSports programme director; treasurer Steven Grennell; Ryan Moore, director of special projects; and Matthew Lee, general secretary and responsibility for international relations. The JEI also has an advisory board consisting of Carlette DeLeon, Nicarno Williams, Jason Facey and Mikhail Boswell.
Moore has a 13-year history in video games, bringing his talents to the retail side in 2007 with his company Str8Games Limited. Eventually, he joined forces with Johnson who had experience in organising video game tournaments.
“We currently have over a thousand registered gamers as members of the JEI,” Moore said.
However, the road to those numbers wasn’t easily achieved.
“Due to the lack of integrity from previous private video game organisations, earning the trust of the community has been proving difficult in some cases,” Moore said.
In addition to that hindrance, another big barrier for the gaming industry is money, as the professional level computer and console gaming equipment necessary to compete at the international level is already pricey, especially when local tariffs are added for imported goods. Moore added that the lack of proper high-speed Internet for online play is another barrier.
Despite these issues, the JEI has managed to bring eSports to the forefront within the past year, forming a national eSports team, the Dr Birdz, comprised of 20 of the island’s top gamers. Even beyond that, they’ve earned the acknowledgement of the Jamaica Olympic Association, as they plan to take the Dr Birdz to the Olympic Games. Ahead of that, JEI will tackle their largest effort yet, hosting the 2020 Central American and Caribbean eSports Championship in Jamaica.
— Written by Nichola Beckford