From the People's Daily app.
And this is Story in the Story.
According to a report from Tencent, 170 million Chinese participate in e-sports, including players and viewers. In 2016, the industry generated over 3 billion dollars.
However, the industry faces a shortage of talented professionals.
The China Electronic Athletics magazine and Tencent E-sports released the E-sports Industry Talent Supply and Demand Survey in 2018, indicating the industry had only 50,000 practitioners and needed another 210,000.
The survey also predicted that by 2020, the number of people employed in the e-sports sector would hit 570,000.
Tencent has teamed up with the ESPN network and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US to find ways to develop the Chinese e-sports industry.
Today, the popularity of e-sports players rivals even that of singers or actors.
The first e-sports gold medal was won by a Chinese team at the 2018 Jakarta Asian Games, Chinese e-sports team Invictus Gaming won the championship at the 2018 League of Legends Pro League.
However, there is one sub-group within the e-sports sector that should not be overlooked: the referees.
Today's Story in the Story looks at the role of the E-sports referee, a new career opportunity and vital position within the nascent competitive gaming industry.
Communication University of China students take part in the university's first DRS e-sports competition that was held over three weekends on campus in Beijing from Oct 28 to Nov 12. (Photo: China Daily)
Yang Bo, a former pro Starcraft player, and e-sports referee, is now the deputy manager of Beijing 99 Interactive Entertainment Marketing Consultants. His company's clients include game companies Tencent, Netease, and Blizzard.
"In a professional e-sports match, several specialized referees work under a chief referee to oversee software, hardware, and the internet," explained Yang.
"Some amateur referees or amateur players can also play some not-so-important roles in an e-sports match, but some positions like a chief referee and the manager of gaming equipment should be handled by experienced staff."
E-sports referees do not necessarily have to possess excellent gaming skills.
"They must know how to handle different problems," Yang said, which requires building up experience overseeing matches.
Just like other sports, referees are necessary to ensure formal tournaments are carried out smoothly and fairly. Unlike other games, far less attention has been given to e-sports referees than those who work in other sports.
"They are both working on a specific competitive sport, so they have a lot of similarities," said Yang.
"From 2004 to 2006, China already had a few e-sports referees, but their expertise was too general," said Yang.
Yang explained that at the time, many regulations and methods were brought over from traditional sports refereeing even though they didn't necessarily fit the new genre.
An e-sports referee oversees a match at the League of Legends Pro League tournament in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, on April 17. (Photo: IC)
However, Yang said that traditional sports referees' influence has been far more positive than negative.
Yang talked about one 40-year-old referee who joined the e-sports training program.
"He has a solid theoretical base for how to deal with unknown situations, such as how to pacify the players," said Yang, noting, however, that the middle-aged man still has problems when it comes to understanding gaming equipment and the internet.
"For the first 10 years, e-sports in China had a very tough time," Yang said.
While increasing public attention and support from the government has allowed e-sports and its related industries to begin to thrive, the training of e-sports referees is still catching up.
"In my experience, many e-sports match organizers hire referees from a small pool of people who they have worked with before," noted Yang.
"And it's rare to see a referee who has received professional training at an education institute."
According to Yang, a referee must be tested in many real e-sports matches and not limited to theory as some problems they will encounter will not be listed in the rule books. Referees must take responsibility for the decisions they make.
In 2016, the Ministry of Education added e-sports to the list of majors for vocational colleges. More than 10 vocational colleges offered the major in 2017.
Most colleges work with game companies or e-sports clubs and offer students three-year courses. And their purpose is not limited to educating professional players. Students can also choose to become referees, coaches, sports agents or analysts.
Meanwhile, more universities are joining the e-sports-education bandwagon.
"A good referee can make an e-sports match run smoothly," said Yang, "but an incompetent referee can do a lot to harm a match."
(Produced by Nancy Yan Xu, Lance Crayon, Brian Lowe and Da Hang. Music by: bensound.com. Text from Global Times and China Daily.)