Turning a hobby into a career

Michelle Mannering, also known as the Hackathon Queen, found her love for gaming in a Nutri-Grain cereal box. Before working alongside esport gamers at Australia’s largest events, Michelle was playing an Age of Empires CD —  a lucky find in her cereal box.

Like many kids growing up in the 90s, Michelle and her cousin had to ask their parents for permission to play such a game. After winning them over by explaining the historical education element of the game — no doubt a stretch of the imagination —  Michelle’s cousin went on to become an archaeologist and Michelle became an esport gamer.


The rise of esports

Throughout colleague, Michelle pursued her love for gaming by hosting LAN parties around campus. Michelle says it was a hobby that eventually turned into a viable career.

“We would always play a few LAN games in college, but then we started organising them, like seriously organising them, which turned into an inter-college gaming tournament,” remembers Michelle. “This led to my interest in esports and I’ve followed this passion ever since.”

Today, the esport economy is worth in excess of $US600 million and it continues to grow 40 percent year-on-year. In Australia, it has surpassed the days of college LAN parties and now holds world-wide events with sponsors like Red Bull supporting the next wave of gamers and their fans.

One such event with world-wide notoritory is PAX Australia. PAX host Australia’s largest esport tournaments and this year represented the community at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre. The three-day tournaments featured the OCE Championship, showcasing some of ANZ’s best gaming talent. For the past few years, Michelle has been MC’ing this event and reveals just how much the esport scene has changed in Australia.

“I remember the first PAX event: most people didn’t know what it was and it wasn’t really promoted. If you were in the gaming sector you sort of knew about it, but now everyone knows about it.”


What’s holding us back?

Michelle believes there are a few reasons why esports in Australia hasn’t experienced the same popularity as it has in China, South Korea, or the United States.  

“We’re so far away from the world and our internet speeds are less than ideal,” Michelle explains. “In the past, we haven’t the backing of big companies and government or anyone to help us to move to the next level.”

“For example, in China there are massive posters everywhere advertising upcoming tournaments and the community celebrates esport professionals like sporting celebrities.”


The next big thing

Michelle believes a change in perspective has finally come to Australia: esports is on the rise in both talent and popularity.

“The Adelaide Crows have just bought the legacy League of Legends team. Nigel Smart, head of the Adelaide Crows, was at PAX this year talking about how excited they are as an AFL company to be supporting esport.”

“That’s the biggest thing that we’ve seen in esports! The sector is now growing and there’s so much money involved and so much advertising available to companies to get involved.”


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