Bradley Mullis spoke with Savannah e-Sports founder Vernon Goss on his plans for the future growth of professional gaming in Savannah and surrounding areas.
Vernon Goss is building his Field of Dreams in Savannah, Georgia.
Although his looks much different from a baseball field, Goss is similarly working to create a platform that fulfills aspirations and provides opportunities for generations to come. For him, the goal is the pure bliss that comes with the satisfaction of knowing you played a role in helping make that game-winning play for you, your team, and this case, Savannah. Goss’ competitive nature and drive are obvious, even though his sport of choice spans a long, digital highway.
“I’ve been a gamer for as long as I can remember,” says Goss, who is the father to five daughters, three of whom have picked up his fervor for the controller.
His love for playing video games coupled with his predilection for connecting with other avid gamers led him to create Savannah e-Sports, a local community and professional league for gamers. The purpose of the league is to provide connectivity and training opportunities for gamers as well as serve as a recruitment platform for pro e-sports enthusiasts in the local area and beyond.
As a product of Savannah e-Sports, Goss launched the Ghost Town Gaming team in 2022. They’ve got jerseys, they compete in tournaments, and they’re very aware of the stigma that comes with e-sports.
“The old thought process to this day is that gaming will rot your brain,” Goss says.
That thought process continues to plague the legacy of gaming. However, the state of Georgia knows differently when it comes to the power of the controller.
At the start of our conversation, Goss rattles off a few statistics about the state’s gaming industry, but the numbers he shares seem outrageous. I feel the need to do a little of my own research, and honestly, he isn’t lying.
According to the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD), “in 2020, the video game industry brought in $155 billion — more than the film and music industries combined.” A 2021 news report from the GDEcD states that e-sports activity in Georgia alone contributes more than $750 million annually to the state’s economy. In fact, Georgia is one of five states in the country that sanctions e-sports through its athletic association.
So why is Georgia a hotspot for e-sports? Georgia Trend Magazine shared several reasons offered by Andrew Greenberg (Executive Director of the Georgia Game Developers Association) and Asante Bradford (Sr. Industry Engagement Manager for Digital Entertainment & Emerging Technology at the GDEcD):
- Greenberg shares that Georgia has a robust e-sports ecosystem that makes it stand out globally. The publication elaborates that an e-sports ecosystem is made up of “game creators, professional players, top-tier live streaming companies, venues for gamers, world champion college teams, varsity high school teams, and programs for youth at middle schools and recreation centers.”
- Bradford explains that the state is flooded with this creative talent, who are attracted to Georgia due to the high quality of life and lost cost of doing business.
- Bradford further notes that the 2005 established Georgia Entertainment Industry Investment Act provides companies creating interactive entertainment projects such as console, computer or mobile app games an annual tax credit up to $1.5 million. There is an annual statewide cap to this incentive at $12.5 million.
In addition to all of these stats, you might be interested to learn about individual economic opportunity. While the overall data on professional e-sports earnings is skewed, websites like comparably.com have the average U.S. salary at around $60,000 annually. Cyberathletiks.com says yearly tournament earnings fall somewhere between $12,000 and $60,000. Not bad for a hobbyist turning their passion into an income stream.
And top-performing gamers? They compete for prize pools of well over $1 million.
It’s important to point out that these earning potentials are based solely on the prize pools offered during tournament play. Where the money really comes from for many serious gamers is in sponsorship opportunities and from streaming on the Twitch gaming platform. TechTimes.com notes that in 2020, “streamer Felix ‘xQc’ Lengyel earned over $1.9 million from his streaming career alone.”
If all of these numbers don’t have you convinced that an e-sports league in Savannah is a good idea, Goss’ motivation for the league might change your perspective.
He cites the benefits that gaming brings to individuals like soldiers fighting PTSD, youth developing hand-eye coordination, and children with autism. This article from ablegamers.org offers additional insights into these reasonings for video gaming, which supports their mission to create opportunities that enable play in order to combat social isolation, foster inclusive communities, and improve the quality of life for people with disabilities.
While research is limited on the effects of gaming on youth’s cognitive development, the largest study to date interestingly found positive cognitive correlations in terms of memory and impulse control for gamers versus non-gamers.
But what Goss is really passionate about, is the mentoring aspect of Savannah eSports.
“The whole point is to develop talent, just like a football player or a basketball player,” he explains. “You put together highlight reels, you have them sign up for tournaments. So you’re getting their name out there to get sponsors already looking at them.”
There’s a lot more to being an e-sports athlete than just gathering clips and competing in tournaments. And that’s where Goss puts the shiny wrapping paper over his whole idea.
“We’re developing that positive side of sportsmanship,” he says. “You’re gaining communication skills, you’re developing critical thinking skills.”
All of which are often the unsung aspects of the gaming world. And while Goss touts these as his main reasons for developing Savannah e-Sports and now Ghost Town Gaming, his real selling point is what he says right before we log off for the night.
“Come join us, and live your imagination,” he says, smiling.
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