ESPORTS HAS had many negative stigmas.
Parents may be hesitant to let their child venture into esports because they think it might lead to game addiction. Then there’s the misconception that the industry is connected to gambling.
To combat these stigmas, Toff de Venecia, representative of Pangasinan's fourth district, has decided to push for a bill where October will be declared as the month of esports.
“There is a general confusion about it. It’s sort of a stigma that the sector wants to combat and properly addressed and that’s also why we filed this bill, declaring October as esports month to be able to raise awareness that esports is a legitimate sport,” he said to Spin.ph.
And how will they raise awareness? According to De Venecia, involving government agencies and other organizations is a must.
“[We will] also [need to] enjoin government agencies like DepEd, and the Philippine Olympic Committee — which is not necessarily government per se — and other participating branches of government to really help disseminate information about this sector."
Even the Philippine Information Agency could use government media channels to raise awareness about the growing industry.
“Primarily it’s really an information dissemination campaign," he said. "It’s also to turn everyone's eyes into the sector and educate them that it’s not gambling or e-sabong. It will destigmatize esports so that parents can find a way to galvanize this emerging creative industry towards the development of their children and many other areas.”
Esports is more than just playing video games
During congressional hearings from earlier this year, the House heard from notable esports personalities and stakeholders from the Philippine Esports Organization (PeSO), esports grassroots startup AcadArena, and PR company Evident PH.
It was there where De Venecia learned that there is more to the industry than meets the eye.
“There is a stigma about esports in schools," he admitted, especially with internet cafes located close to schools that could have served as "some kind of distraction" for students.
“But then you hear about these case studies of some students — as we experienced in the hearings — that esports is what really brought them back to school, it’s where they were able to use their creativity. I guess it’s where people were able to find some community and they were able to shine.”
And moving beyond the educational institutions, esports does have a bigger role in the other areas of governance, like tourism.
“In terms of esports events, there’s a lot of synergy that can be facilitated when they’re introduced to these government agencies. Like the Department of Tourism, for example. One of their 10 tourism products that they’re promoting is MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conventions, and Exhibitions) tourism."
He added: “Prior to meeting the esports stakeholders, we didn’t know that apparently esports events can pack stadia and bring in a lot of inbound tourists to the country, whether as participants or spectators. They can bolster domestic tourism, getting people from the regions to come to Manila or vice-versa so there’s an opportunity to be able to galvanize esports events for our tourism as a form of creative tourism."
Which is why he's exploring a partnership with tourism secretary Christina Frasco.
De Venecia aims to further support the game development sector as well. The Panganisan rep revealed to Spin.ph that he has been communicating with the biggest game developers' organization in the Philippines.
“We’re also looking into getting more support at least for the game development side of esports from the Department of Trade and Industry in terms of ease to do business, streamlining all of the requirements, providing technical or even financial subsidies and incentives, knowing that esports events are able to help in our goals of nation building and socio-economic advancements,” he said.
Debunking misconceptions is a priority
With the current stigma on esports, De Venecia believes that it is important for the government to be well-informed about the industry for them to fully show their support.
“Adjustments are essential and the problem always goes back if government agencies don’t understand a sector, then they would not be able to support it," he explained.
In fact, he listed many opportunities for various branches of government to step in. The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) for example, can set their sights on dealig with connectivity.
“It was impressed upon us that the sector that there needs to be support mechanisms for internet cafes. What programs for example can the DICT — which is primarily charged in developing the internet communications and technology infrastructure in implementing the National Broadband Plan — carry out, and how we can better the internet connectivity in the regions because essentially esports happens in the digital space?”
Then he discussed the college courses on esports. Just last year, Lyceum of the Philippines University decided to offer an esports program with Tier One Entertainment.
“We found out that there are college courses that specializes in esports. We have to look into making that as an alternative," he said.
"What kind of careers could it possibly lead to and strengthen the linkage between these academic institutions and industries so that we can ensure that graduates will have a job when they finish their schooling? That there’s no such thing as a job’s skills mismatch in esports otherwise companies will have to reinvest and spend extra money in training graduates to come up to par to their standards.”
Despite his optimism for the many ways in which government can help prop up esports, De Venecia nevertheless tempers expectations on timing.
“Well, hopefully the bill will become law sooner than later. Esports month cannot be necessarily implemented without the law being enacted and that takes time.”
He added: “So I doubt we’ll be able to enact it within the year as there are other legislative priorities, but we’ll certainly work towards its enactment in the next three years.”