“I’m good at explaining things,” he said. “Just like when I’m practicing the viola…You’re always self critiquing, and you’re always figuring out what you’re doing wrong and how to get better.”
Like coaches in any endeavor, video game coaches teach players how to be more strategic and how to interact in team-based games like “League of Legends” and “Overwatch.” Some have their own awards for past gaming competitions and others simply have positive reputations bolstered by word of mouth.
The remote-friendly nature of the job provides an alternative for those searching for income.
“If I’m being honest, I should charge more. But it’s a hard thing to argue to people who do want to buy those things a lot of the time. It’s a perceived value,” he said.
Coaches market themselves on platforms like Fiverr and ProGuides and are hired by the hour by customers who search through an online catalog. ProGuides said the number of purchased coaching sessions increased 25% in March compared to February. Fiverr said that video game coaching session purchases rose 43% in March compared to the previous month.
GamerCoach, a European gaming platform, told CNN Business its sales have increased 60 percent since people started staying at home in March. Gamer Sensei, a platform that says it fact checks coaches on their claimed accomplishments, said money spent on the site has risen 50% during the last two weeks of March.
“Video game coaching already existed, of course, but the current pandemic has created the right conditions that facilitate it becoming more widespread,” said Joost van Dreunen, founder of New Breukelen, an advisory and investment firm specializing in video games. “If everyone you know plays ‘Super Smash Bros,’ you’re going to want to learn how to play, too. Spending a few hours with a coach to show you the ropes starts to make sense.”
Tyler Cunningham, 21, of Sacramento, California coaches “Super Smash Bros” on another platform, ProGuides, after losing his job at a pharmacy where he worked as a cashier and stock boy.
Rio Spersch, 27, of British Columbia, Canada, runs a company that teaches robotics and animation programs to children in community centers near schools. “It’s awesome, I get to talk about video games and esports for some income,” he said.
Spersch said that losing his clients was a significant blow to his business and it forced him to look for alternatives. “Unfortunately, things are totally up in the air,” he said.
Some customers still perceive gaming lessons as a frivolous purchase, however. And those in financial need may cut back on future purchases.
One of Spersch’s own customers, Michael Northrop, 42, a healthcare professional from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, said he came to see the value of video game coaching lessons over time. At first, he said he “scoffed at the idea of who’s going to pay money for this. But I figured I’d give it a try. I’ve wasted more money on less worthwhile things.”
Northrop took about $100 worth of “Overwatch” lessons from Spersch so that he could play more easily with friends. The coaching helped him improve when he couldn’t put many hours into gaming due to his full-time job.
“My friends are school teachers, photographers. They’re texting me, ‘hey, you want to jump in ‘Starcraft’ or ‘Warcraft?'” he said. “Once the kids are in bed, we’ll maybe pick a night and play from eight to 10.”