Developing the Next Esports Generation— Interview with Dan Cybak of The Gaming Stadium
One of the last things that Dan Cybak, CEO of The Gaming Stadium said before the interview ended was, “It’s Coming…” when talking about the rise of esports not only in Canada, but across the world. The passion and excitement that Cybak has throughout the interview about the future of esports could of made anyone excited.
When talking about what pushed Dan to dive head first into the esports industry with the creation of The Gaming Stadium, he talked about his two sons. “A few years ago, they were 10 and 15 and they could make a sailor blush from the way they swore at how they were lined up and paired with people online.” Despite his wife not being too happy about the language, he was able to see the joy both of his sons, who are now 17 and 22, had playing these games.
Playing traditional sports growing up such as hockey and football, Cybak was shocked when there wasn’t any kind of organized development for these young players. “There must be a better way” when talking about online matchmaking being the exclusive method for these players to grow as a player and individual. Thus the idea of The Gaming Stadium was born, however it took several years before it was able to come to fruition.
Follow in the footsteps of many other entrepreneurs, Dan worked on this idea for several years after he would come home from a full-time position. After three years, and starting to make some progress, he decided it was time to full commit to The Gaming Stadium.
Assembling the Dream Team
After laying the groundwork by talking to an architect about some of the specifics, and having a couple of renderings made, Dan went out to start talking to some of the connections he had made while working on the project part time.
The first part of this super team that he talked to was Matt Low. Matt has been organizing Hearthstone tournaments in Canada since 2014, and started to become a well known staple in the local gaming scene. He’s taken on the role as VP of Operations.
Not long after Low was introduced to the project, Cybak was introduced to Spiro Khouri. Having an extreme passion for esports, Khouri opened the first ever esports lounge in a casino in Canada. While skeptical at first, Spiro is now completely on board joining the organization as their VP of Sales & Marketing.
Dan really wanted to make a point of saying that they wouldn’t be anywhere close to where they are now without the whole team. He has been blown away with all of the awesome work, and really believes that “These are stadiums that are built by gamers, for gamers.”
Throughout the development of the organization, they have also brought on several other staff and advisory team members! While Dan and I didn’t talk specifically about any of them, you can easily learn more about the whole team on their website!
From Concept to Reality
While building a team is no easy task, it is one of many milestones that are needed to accomplish something of this scale. To really make The Gaming Stadium a reality, they were going to need funding sooner rather than later.
Luckily due to a connection, they were introduced to an undisclosed investment company. After the introduction, things escalated very quickly, only two days after the initial introduction they were pitching the idea. Despite being generally more reserved in their investments, they decided that they would fund the venture and allow this dream to take the next step to becoming a reality.
“We looked at the model from Korea and what it took them, 10 years, to build to where they at are now and compared it to Canada…” Cybak made the comment when talking about what really helped sell the investors on the idea. Most esports events in Canada were happening in extremely small venues and lounges, not built for the growing scene.
Now in the final stages of designing the initial arena, The Gaming Stadium is far from a dream and much closer to a reality. However, they aren’t waiting for the doors to open to start making an impact. Currently on their website, you can sign up for their newsletter about upcoming events that will happen in upcoming months before the stadium is event completed.
Watch, Learn, Grow, Play and Game
“We are not a LAN center,” is something that Cybak wanted to make very clear in the interview. While we will be hosting some regional events, that is not our goal in any way. He respects LAN centers and understands where they belong in the industry, but he has larger hopes for The Gaming Stadium.
“We have five core values — Watch, Learn, Grow, Play and Game”
Rather it be a youth league, or looking for something to do after a couple of beers with your friends, there will be a weekly league for you. Dan wants everyone of all ages, sexes, backgrounds and skill levels to be involved and are planning for numerous leagues to account for all of those factors. While they have not announced their first league yet, he has teased that it will be one of the larger esport titles.
Outside of weekly leagues, The Gaming Stadium will host countless classes and events that teaches the positive side of esports. This will include incredibly important skills such as teamwork and communication will even touch on maintaining your mental health, nutrition and more.
Also for any of you parents out there, that aren’t able to understand why you kids are so obsessed with esports, there will be a class for you even. They’ll teach you the fundamentals of some games so that you are able to see the development that your children have over the course of a season, and be able to understand enough to cheer them on.
The Potential Future
While his grand ambitions may be to one day take over the world, Cybak hopes at the minimum that The Gaming Stadium helps to build the esports scene in Canada while helping develop future professional players. Building a collegiate scene is something that is also incredibly important to Dan and wants to be apart of it in any way possible.
However, he doesn’t see the void that they are filling to be something that is exclusively limited to Canada. After already having numerous organizations reach out to him in the United States, he would love to one day expand across both countries. He sees no reason why all players shouldn’t have the same opportunity to develop and grow.
We talked a little bit about the esports industry as a whole, and was curious to see his thoughts about which generation that esports and traditional sports will be recognized at the same level,
“This is the generation where it’s actually happening and I know esports is still in it’s infancy, however, we were looking for this. We are looking for something like this right now, because this is that generation right now of 12,13,14,15,16 year olds in high school that want to form these leagues and don’t want to play football, or don’t want to play baseball but they want to be involved in something like this.”
Cybak believes that one of the last things preventing esports really from becoming mainstream is the development of players. So many other sports have development and semi-pro leagues where players are able to perfect their skills, while that seems to be severely lacking for esports. He hopes that The Gaming Stadium can fill at least a majority of that void and allow for future hopefuls to fulfill their dreams and turn into the next great players.
This interview was originally done for the Project: Esports Podcast. A weekly topic based podcast that talks about some of the biggest news in the esports industry. You can find more information about the podcast on Twitter. You can also find me personally on Twitter!