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Brad Jones co-founds provincial association to give esports the spotlight it deserves.

An avid and competitive gamer growing up, Brad Jones transformed his passion for electronic sports (esports) into a provincial movement through the creation of Alberta Esports Association (AESA). 

That association, co-founded by Jones from Calgary, and Vic Ly in Edmonton, is leading the way in Western Canada to create opportunities for gamers, and those who are interested in marketing and managing sporting events. With the right connections and education, the opportunities in the area of esports are vast. 


Esports provides connection during global pandemic  

Esports has been around for decades, however with new technologies and a demand to create a more dynamic - and global - gaming experience, organizations like AESA are formalizing to grow the sport, help build careers in the industry and create connections.

Jones started in this industry as a competitive gamer, but through mentorship from event organizers he was taught how to plan at a grassroots level.


“At age 17, I organized my first gaming event. Fifty-eight people attended, which was an amazing turnout. That same event series, which runs today, has grown to anywhere between 800 to 1,000 people in attendance,” says Jones.

In 2020, when everyone was required to stay home due to the pandemic, Ly and Jones organized an esport event called Super Smashing Covid. After engaging a number of groups and raising money, they realized the list of organizers was so large, it would be of benefit to formalize the community under one umbrella.  

“We have a bit of an advantage in the fact that through Covid, we’ve been able to remain physically distanced while still socially close,” says Jones. “It has really engaged a lot of youth, who had more time than before to engage in games with friends and, for better or worse, leaned on it as a core point of social contact.”


Behind-the-scenes look at planning an event in esports

Just like with any sport, esports require all of the elements to be in place for a successful event, including coaches, directors, the creation of floor plans, ticket sales, and marketing. 

As a founder and vice-president with AESA, Jones ends up spending a lot of his evenings and weekends, after working his day job, connecting with people inquiring about the industry and returning emails. A few times a year he is organizing an esporting event which includes three to four months of very action-packed planning. 

“One of the first steps is deciding the venue and budget. As soon as you commit to that, you begin working on graphics, the floor plan, staffing, contracts, legal protection, health and safety, and building out a top-to-bottom plan of the entire event budget,” explains Brad. “It doesn’t happen overnight, but you start it, and don’t stop until you have everything you could possibly think of on paper.” 

Then cold calling begins to seek sponsorships and connections to begin building a team of people who oversee various areas of the event. 

When event day rolls around there are many specialized roles, such as tournament organizers, bracket and seeding design, rule development, and managing players’ concerns. It really is similar to being backstage at a concert where organizers need to ensure every detail is playing out as planned. 

“On the event side of things, you have moderately slow days and then you’re constantly on fire,” says Jones. “Everything’s going wrong and everything’s working out great. Behind the scenes there is a lot of connectivity. Anyone getting into esports at this level - that is not on the gaming side - is doing a lot of networking and connecting, because networking is huge right now.” 

The co-founder mentions that the key to a successful event is passion “passion is what esports is driven by.”


The future of esports in Alberta – vice president of AESA hopes for a place at the Olympics.

Jones is optimistic for the future of esports. He is already noticing increased connectivity across Canada with multiple esport associations in place. 

“My hope is that we will see regular circuited and sanctioned events in the esport industry. I am also optimistic that eventually this industry will have a place at the Olympics, and that Canada will have the opportunity to send a team to compete on a global stage. We need to prepare and connect to answer questions like, who represents Canada.” 


That’s why the focus for Jones is collaboration, his free time spent connecting with individuals, businesses and others about the future of esports and ensuring it is prepared to take advantage of the growth.  

“Our values are driven by collaboration, inclusivity, growth, accountability and fun. We don’t want to run the biggest esports event in Alberta personally, we just want it to happen here. We want to be part of it, we want to support people in a way so the industry is growing.”


Education plays a pivotal place in industry growth

Along with the creation of a leading-edge governing body, Brad also believes in education as a foundation for a future career in esports.


“Education can provide that confidence you need to speak with businesses about event success when seeking support.”

With the combination of the kind of educational programs being offered and the esports association, Jones hopes it provides a place for the gaming community to go to get advice and seek information to help grow the industry in Alberta.  


Interested in learning more about how you can get involved in esports? Visit: www.mhc.ab.ca/sportandevent.