When an industry booms as quickly and dramatically as esports has, learning by doing isn’t a rarity; it’s a necessity. German editor Matthias Holländer says he’s surrounded by colleagues who have no formal education in gaming journalism. On the contrary, it’s a culture of networking, asking questions, and putting yourself out there as a passionate and inquisitive person.
Holländer is the managing editor for Freaks 4U Gaming, meaning he oversees all the journalistic content that comes from the marketing agency’s editorial side. Read on for how he’s made German CS:GO gaming his valuable career niche.
Find Your Grind: Tell us a little bit about yourself, Matthias. How did you get into esports?
Matthias Holländer: I am originally from Bavaria, Germany, and I moved to Berlin to pursue a career in esports. Before that, I was a software developer in the automotive industry in Munich. I started playing Counter-Strike in 2005 and was immediately hooked by the competitiveness of it. I discovered other esports later and started really following all the major esports titles when I moved to Berlin at the end of 2016.
I’m currently working as the managing editor for the editorial department of Freaks 4U Gaming, a full-service marketing agency, and my work has now been published on Red Bull, Sport1, readmore and 99Damage, among others. Besides that, I am the most established German CS:GO broadcast analyst, having taken part in every significant German live production from the start of 2017 through to today, including all major tournaments with 99Damage, the German championship with ESL, and the full broadcast of the IEM Oakland Final for ProSieben on national TV.
FYG: How would you describe your job to someone who knows nothing about what you do?
MH: What sports journalists do for football or the Olympics, I do for esports. Esports is essentially the playing of video games at a top-tier competitive level. To be more specific, I produce esports content from strategy and planning through creation and editing and eventually publishing and activation. I regularly explain esports for clients of the full-service agency I work at, too, who have various levels of insight into the field.
FYG: What kind of experience or degree would someone need to get a job like yours? How did you obtain that experience/degree?
MH: You don’t need a degree to get a job in esports similar to mine. Some of my colleagues have degrees in sports journalism, but most have no formal education in the field. My editorial skills were acquired on the job, learning by doing. I volunteered to write for 99Damage — Germany’s biggest CS:GO site — got accepted and stayed with them for roughly a year before I managed to get an internship at the company running the site. This later turned into a temporary contract and is now a full-time permanent position. Throughout this journey I had great writers, editors and other experts in the field give me loads of feedback. Apart from that, I studied how other esports outlets, sports coverage sites and mainstream media were working and simply adapted a lot of that to my esports work.
FYG: What advice would you give to kids in high school, especially kids from rural areas, who want to get into esports?
MH: Start doing it. You don’t need a job to start working on your esports career, or any digital career for that matter. Volunteer. Post to forums, reddit and social media. Like in any digital field nowadays, the possibilities are endless, but you gotta start doing and not wait for that one golden opportunity that might never come if you don’t do anything. If you just start, keep working, refine your skills and gain experience. Then, that opportunity will come, and you will be prepared.
FYG: What kind of lifestyle does your career allow you to live? What sort of salary and work environment can people typically expect from a position or field like yours?
MH: I write about esports; that’s pretty cool in itself. I also travel to events, working closely with teams, organizers, players and customers to create great content, and on top of that, I get paid for it. While esports most likely won’t make you rich, you won’t sleep under a bridge either. I’d say given my experience and skillset I am compensated quite well. In any other field, I wouldn’t have gotten where I am now as fast as I did in esports, and that goes for salary too.
Esports has a very friendly and casual atmosphere but is also driven by an immense amount of passion. Most people love what they do and give their all to it. The majority of the people you are going to be working with are digital natives, gamers and esports fans who turned their passion into their profession, which makes for a great working environment.
FYG: What strengths, skills, or character traits do you think are most important for your position?
MH: Work to learn, not only to get through the day. Keep a finger on the pulse of esports and stay up to date on the whole esports scene, not just your favorite game. Be outgoing — accept and own responsibility, and don’t be afraid to ask for help, advice, and critical feedback. The skills and character traits most important for my specific position would be decisiveness and the ability to keep a close eye on workloads, deadlines and to-dos, some of which might not be obvious.
Networking is also crucial: You don’t need to know everybody, but you need to know the right people to have access to teams, players and other key figures in the world of esports. If I had to nail it down to one vital thing, it would be to never stop learning.
FYG: What does it mean to you to Find Your Grind? Why is it important?
MH: You have to find something that you can do from the moment you get up until you fall asleep without noticing how fast the time went by. It doesn’t have to be, and certainly won’t be, like that every day, but if you find that thing, that profession, that job that does that for you, keep at it, you are on the right path. It’s cheesy but true: “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.”