When the Global Esports Federation (GEF) was launched in 2019, one of its goals was to marry the fast-growing esports world with values often tied to traditional sport.
Esports was already the fastest growing sport in 2019, with revenue over US$1 billion and a worldwide reach of close to 500 million. With its massive reach and widespread appeal among the young, esports is seen as a gateway to connecting with the youth of the world.
What then, could a new esports organization bring? As it turns out, plenty.
For starters, the GEF celebrates its second anniversary just as the inaugural edition of the Global Esports Games (GEG), its flagship event, prepares for a highly-anticipated opening in Singapore.
The GEF’s journey over the past two years has also seen it expand the reach of esports globally while championing causes often overlooked by the larger esports world.
Female representation has long been an issue in esports. The lack of opportunities for women to play at major events and an overwhelmingly male-dominated executive workforce both at esports global companies and international bodies often meant that the interest of women in esports was often overlooked.
But the GEF made sure to address this.
For its inaugural edition of the GEG, the GEF set the tone of its flagship event by ensuring that it had a women’s category. Teams Paraguay, Mongolia and Great Britain emerged through regional qualifiers to earn the right to battle it out for Dota 2 supremacy alongside hosts Singapore. GEG 2021 will also be the first major international tournament to feature an all-women Dota 2 category.
In the boardroom, the GEF has also led the way. In two years, it has increased women representation at the GEF, edging toward 40%.
Said Chris Chan, president of the GEF: “The GEF was founded on the principle that everyone in the gaming world should be considered equals and it is why we have always pushed for an inclusive esports and youth culture.
“The beauty of esports is that color, gender, race and how affluent someone is don’t factor in. When you interact virtually, it doesn’t matter what your background is.
“And that is the culture we want to foster with our #worldconnected movement. Esports is universal, and it should be something everyone can experience and enjoy.”
Central to fostering diversity is the need to be more inclusive. And that is where the GEF has also made significant inroads, especially with promoting esports and events in the Middle East.
While esports had made tremendous strides in the dominant markets of Europe, North America and Asia, elite-level, international events are still in its infancy in the Arab world.
The GEF brought two events to the Middle East in its inaugural Global Esports Tour, which opened in Los Angeles in September 2021, before moving to Riyadh in October and Dubai in November.
Aptly, the United Arab Emirates became the 100th Member Federation to join the GEF in August 2021. To date, the GEF has 105 Member Federations.
For the 18-19 December GEG world finals, which will feature over 100 esports athletes from over 40 countries, the GEF has taken the extra step of assembling a Team #worldconnected — which brings athletes of different backgrounds, including those who represent the refugee community, people with disabilities, wounded servicemen and women, and other underserved communities.
Among the athletes in Team #worldconnected is Roby Hormis, a former refugee from Iraq who is now based in the Netherlands. He will compete in eFootball alongside Brazil-born Yuri “Yuri_FPOLIS” Andrade, who now resides in the United States.
And for the pair, initiatives like Team #worldconnected are what makes the GEF a refreshing addition to the global esports ecosystem.
Said Yuri_FPOLIS: “For me, just inviting people from all around the world, from different backgrounds, is a big step to making esports something the whole world can enjoy. It’s awesome and that is something amazing that the GEF is doing.”
Inclusivity is, however, not confined to the athletes.
As part of the Singapore 2021 GEG, GEFCon will bring together thought leaders in esports, sports, technology, and entertainment to explore topical issues facing the industry such as the role of fintech in esports, the future of entertainment, and how organizations are moving from sponsorship to partnership.
There is also the GEFestival, a two-week virtual celebration of esports in the build-up to GEG 2021. It features community gaming, music and entertainment for the gaming communities of the world.
As with any organization, the formative years are crucial. It is where one builds stability and strong roots to form a firm foundation for growth. With a strong base, already established in its first two years, the global esports community can look to many more initiatives that will excite and positively impact esports.
Among the initiatives on the horizon are the expanding of the GEF’s presence in the metaverse with its partnership with 888 The New World, and an exciting line-up of Global Esports Tour and GEG 2022 as the flagship event moves to Istanbul, Turkey.
Said GEF CEO Paul J. Foster: “Just like the dynamic industry that is esports, the GEF also needs to constantly evolve and innovate to cater to an ever-changing target audience and market.
“But as we look to strengthen and add to the many initiatives and partnerships we had built in our first two years, our ethos of bringing inclusivity and celebrating diversity in esports will always remain central to what we do.”