Esports Certification Institute Pauses Testing, Issues Refunds after Mass Backlash

by in General | Apr, 30th 2021

The Esports Certification Institute was launched by Sebastian Park, formerly of Clutch Gaming and the Houston Rockets’ esports efforts, with the aim to legitimize and help decrease nepotism in hiring in esports with a certification test. While this and still is a noble goal, the initial test and study guide package cost $400, leading to massive backlash and accusations that this would just lead to further gatekeeping an already closed-off industry, with some pundits calling it a “pay to work” mechanic, especially if it had become an industry standard.

What Happened?

It was relentlessly memed upon, with many in the industry outcrying their need have an “esports certification” through a test, despite having been in the industry for years. Of course, the test was not intended for those people, but rather for those breaking in – however, given the way most got their start, a test like this could have been a detriment and a wall that is not nearly as inclusive as esports has traditionally been. ECI claims that they were going to be able to offer vouchers to anyone who needed them, but the damage in messaging was already done, and now they’ve gone back to the drawing board on the test as a whole, as well as their financial model. 

We’ve made the decision to take the exam down because we want to help the industry and achieve our stated mission of fostering professionalism, promoting meritocracy, and increasing diversity and inclusion in the space,” the ECI said in a statement. “It’s clear from dialogue with the community that we’re actually getting in the way of that. We know that esports is nothing without the fans, advocates, and industry leaders, and we want to respect what many people have given as feedback. We hope that the conversation generated about hiring practices in esports continues to happen! We love esports to its core and want to wish best of luck to all the hard-working talented people out there trying to break into the industry.

The ECI Apologizes For Missing The Mark

The ECI released a lengthy statement, both apologizing to the community for missing the mark, as well as thanking them for helping them towards getting to the right place with the certification, to where it’s both helpful to hiring managers and esports hopefuls alike. 

This has been humbling. First of all, thank you to the entire esports community for your feedback,” ECI said. “We read through every response/retweet, and we were lucky enough to also engage in dialogue with some of y’all.  We hear you. We have plenty to fix and much to iterate through.

To that end, they are pausing signups and issuing refunds to all participants and interested parties while they figure out what to do next. 

We’re pausing all new signups for the certification exam and refunding all payments from test signups to date and study guide donations. Additionally, we’re going to rethink how we want to solve the problem of nepotism and bad hiring in esports.” 

The Esports Certification Institute also addressed accusations and worries from industry experts that this test would cause more harm than good, and present an additional obstacle that people not good at taking tests, but still very talented individuals may have to jump over just to get an interview. 

We started ECI in order to provide additional routes into the esports industry for those who need them. Over the past 10 years, we saw first hand how people would hire their friends over competence and alienate new talent from getting into esports. Nepotistic hiring is real. Just to reiterate, the goal of ECI has always been to help create additional paths to entry into esports, not to gate-keep. ECI was designed for entry level business roles, the finance, marketing, operations, etc. of the industry.

Eci Offers Refunds and Help to Those That Signed up for the Program

While it was clear from messaging on social media that fee waivers would be given to those that needed it, it was not immediately clear in the debut of the concept without digging for it. That was a mistake that ECI is owning up to.

Additionally, our intent was (and still is) to provide fee waivers and scholarships to all who have financial need and want to break into esports. We also hoped that with this public benefit-focused sponsorship/fee waiver model, we might be able to fund every person with financial need.  We messed up. We needed to communicate this model better,” they explained. “That said, we’ve heard you loud and clear – the certification exam in its current form isn’t it. We’re pausing and going back to the drawing board in order to retool everything we’ve done. For the many people who have signed up for the exam or paid for the study guide, we’ll be refunding your purchases immediately, though it may take a few days to return to your account.

The Esports Certification Institute’s board was made up of a number of key individuals from around the esports world and thus it was surprising that so many of them seemingly signed off on the certification test without their concerns being addressed. To many, it seemed like some of their heroes in the space were endorsing what could have been vaporware in terms of a certification – ECI has stressed that while it missed the mark, this was not and is not the case. 

We’re also here for you. We want to help you on your esports journey, so keep an eye out for an email from us. We want to help you achieve your goals in esports,” they explained.  “Our advisors got on board with us because they see the problems with hiring up close every day. Every single one of them has poured their heart and souls into esports. We’ve all been on the front lines together and we always want to do what’s best for it. While our advisory board members have been working to fix these challenges in their individual roles, we launched ECI with the belief that it could further promote professionalism and help remove implicit bias in hiring practices across the space. We’re grateful to our advisors for their trust in us, but we missed the mark with this iteration.” 


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