Gaming site helps Chinese students get into top US universities

Two Canadian students of Chinese descent have flexed their entrepreneurial spirit and started a successful competitive gaming site

PUBLISHED : Friday, 12 July, 2013, 5:22pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 September, 2013, 5:36pm

Video games are sometimes stereotyped as a waste of time, but two students of Chinese descent have recently defied this thought and set up a competitive gaming site that has helped them gain acceptance to two of the US’ most prestigious universities.

Argentinian-born Carlos Xu, whose family is from Guangdong, and Shanxi province native Bill Luo are recent graduates of Vancouver’s St George’s School. The two launched the site GGS Tournaments a year and a half ago. The site, which describes itself as “a novel platform on which gamers of all skill levels can hone their gaming abilities and win fabulous prizes”, is designed to host competitive tournaments for the popular PC game League of Legends. It currently has over 1,000 registered users and generates income from three advertisers.

Xu and Luo’s entrepreneurial efforts impressed university admissions officers, and the two are now first year students at Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania respectively, the Canadian overseas edition of Sing Tao Daily reported.

Xu and Luo first had the idea to start a competitive gaming site in their second year at St George’s, where the school hallway during lunchtime would always be “flooded with swarms of laptops that belonged to eager gamers.”

“It was sort of an annoyance to the school staff,” Xu said. “So Bill and I pitched the idea of starting a school gaming club to the club coordinator at our school, and she could sense our enthusiasm.”

Xu and Luo won permission to start the club, and their school halls quickly became decongested as St George’s gamers congregated in the school’s computer lab at organised times. As the club grew in success, however, technical issues arose.

“The school’s [local area] network could not support such intense [gaming] activity,” Xu said. “We took this disappointing fact as an entrepreneurial opportunity.”

Instead of giving up, Xu and Luo took their operation online, building upon their experience running the club to set up GGS Tournaments, a site that all of their gaming friends, as well as players around the world, could use for free.

“We got a bunch of friends to help us make a promo video, make good-looking graphics for our website, and promote [it] through … Youtube,” Xu says on the site’s creation. “We had just amateur knowledge of marketing, so it took time to get things going … We learnt to handle everything from registering the business to setting up bank accounts to [refining] the website. [It was] an extremely rich learning experience.”

According to an interview Luo gave with Sing Tao Daily, he could see from the start that there was strong demand for a competitive gaming site, and this demand is what ultimately contributed to GGS Tournaments’ success.

“If there was no market in our school,” Luo said, “then we would never have succeeded [with our site] in the real market.”

Xu and Luo’s site is only one of several platforms for competitive gaming, also known as “e-sports”. In e-sports tournaments, leagues of players band together in competitions for fame and sponsorship, and winners have won over US$100,000 (HK$776,000) in prizes. Competitive gaming is particularly popular in Asia, and over eight million viewers watched the finals of a 2012 League of Legends championship. 

Although Xu and Luo both intend to focus more on their studies now that they are in university, they have plans to continue GGS Tournaments and have faith in their site’s expansion.

“The competitive online [e-sports] industry is booming and becoming increasingly visible to gamers and non-gamers alike,” Xu said. “There is a lot of online material suggesting that growth of video gaming will outpace nearly all other subsectors in the media industry, which makes us optimistic [for our site].”