An innovative initiative designed to empower young esports talent with a focus on education and support in mental and physical health while creating a healthier playing and competition environment, also in collaboration with the World Health Organization.
In a new chapter of the House’s journey into the world of gaming, Gucci and competitive gaming platform FACEIT have launched Gucci Gaming Academy. The initiative, the first of its kind created by a luxury fashion brand, was designed to empower young esports talent by cultivating their skills and amplifying their opportunities. The Academy will commence with an inaugural class of 4 players who are already competing in the FACEIT Pro League (FPL) and with the aim to grow this number over time. Candidate selection is based not only on in-game performance, but also on an interview that assesses applicants’ personal values and soft skills, including their aptitude for teamwork and approach to conflict resolution and they will also be involved in Gucci Changemakers activities in the future. The Academy was unveiled through a special film starring one of the participating Ambassadors, James Bardolph, as he guides a young mentoree through his first day on the job. This narrative reflects the Academy’s aim to foster up-and-coming players through experience and exposure, giving them the tools they need to be successful.
With the support of the World Health Organization, the initiative will place particular focus on addressing the increasing amount of mental and physical issues that they face from the pressure of in-game performance and concerns surrounding online scrutiny. Often overlooked, these issues, in addition to the burgeoning presence of misinformation online, are now part and parcel of the experience of young esports talent as they navigate their way through potential careers in the field. Andy Pattison, Team Lead, Digital Channels, Department of Digital Health and Innovation at WHO, says that the sedentary lifestyle associated with gaming “can put people at risk of developing diverse physical and mental health conditions, including depression.” Biancamaria Cavallini of Mindwork, a psychological consultancy and mental health support provider for the Academy, adds that “Pressure and expectations to perform at ever higher level and to achieve professional goals, are one of the most critical issues players can face, causing high levels of anxiety for their futures and their careers.”
In addition to the Academy’s program of group and individual activities to improve skills within their respective game titles, there will also be dedicated sessions with specialized psychologists and other professionals. “Everyone, no matter who they are and where they are from, should have access to information on mental health. Equally, everyone has a role to play in promoting mental health and wellbeing within their communities, including the esports community. When people feel safe and supported, they are more likely to share their experiences and help others to overcome their struggles,” says Pattison.
An important element of the Academy is mentorship, keeping in mind that the participating athletes will be the role models of tomorrow. A series of Ambassadors will accompany the athletes to help them successfully navigate their personal and professional journeys, drawing upon their own experiences to guide them. Christopher “GeT_RiGhT” Alesund, widely considered one of the best players in Counter Strike history, is one such Ambassador. Reflecting on his own journey, he notes that “throughout the last 2-3 years there appears to have been a collective awakening regarding the importance of mental health within esports.” He considers the Academy a great driver for further increasing visibility of these topics to the general public, adding that “the openness and willingness to discuss these issues are key in furthering this progress.”
As players complete their year-long stint within the Academy, professionals like Cavallini from Mindwork will be running group sessions on specific topics to develop their mental health wellbeing as professional esports athletes. “The main tool to help them inhabit this environment in the healthiest way possible is to make them feel they are not alone in all the difficulties they will face in their career path. It would also be useful to educate their families and friends about esports and the pro-player profession, so that they can support them without prejudice.”
Through its focus on emerging talents, Gucci Gaming Academy aims to encourage the forward momentum of raising awareness about mental and physical health issues within the gaming sphere, moving towards a scenario where prevention becomes a priority. Marc Ogihara, founder of Alesund’s esports management agency, Forevr, echoes the sentiment, commenting that “strong mental and physical health is key throughout your whole life and being healthy should always be prioritized. If we are able to prevent or treat conditions better, we should.” Cavallini adds that in order to fight the stigma surrounding these issues by increasing awareness “by involving players in prevention campaigns and psychoeducational training.”
Beyond addressing these concerns within the industry, the Academy also highlights the positive impacts that gaming has on young talents. Pattison from WHO cites the latest research claiming that “when done in moderation, online gaming can help players improve problem-solving skills, alleviate depression and anxiety as well as help people with physical limitations to overcome their conditions.” Ogihara also emphasizes that “esports offers the opportunity to become part of a community with like-minded people, to have a sense of belonging.”
Discover more at http://pro.faceit.com/gucci-gaming-academy – the website created by Gucci and FACEIT featuring content around the Gucci Gaming Academy, including the World Health Organization’s Health & Well-being resources.