Becky Kralle grew up in Runnemede, N.J. playing sports and rooting for Philly teams, never imagining she’d end up pursuing a very different kind of career in sports in Los Angeles.
“What I say to everyone is I accidentally fell into esports,” Kralle said in a recent phone interview.
As the story goes, Kralle was working as a production assistant in TV and film in 2018 when a friend called up to say they needed a production assistant last minute to help at a Hearthstone Tournament.
Her first taste of working behind the scenes in esports was such an enjoyable experience, she took a job at another tournament and another after that.
“It just kind of snowballed from there,” she said.
A self-described nerd who was a contestant on Jeopardy when she was a teenager, Kralle quickly embraced esports on a deeper level in part because of her love of traditional sports — she played soccer, basketball and softball growing up and is a fan of all the pro Philly sports teams.
“I think growing up being a sports fan and playing sports is why I acclimated so well to esports,” she said. “I got the competitive side of it, the storylines and the stats and how you get invested in players.”
A billion dollar industry globally, esports is more mainstream than it was even a couple years ago but is still puzzling to many who don’t understand its massive appeal.
“People say why are you watching people play video games,” Kralle said. “And I always say it’s watching people who are so skilled it’s fun to watch. Anybody can pick up a basketball and go to a basketball court and play but we aren’t paying to watch them play, we’re paying to watch the NBA. The people that play (in esports) are playing at such a high level and they make it look easy but then you’re firing up the game and you die in the first two minutes.”
The accessibility of professional gamers — many of whom host streams and are ubiquitous across social media and gaming platforms — and the community that has built up around specific games and competitions has been a key driver of the industry and is also what makes the tournaments Kralle gets to work particularly rewarding.
“I think one of the other reasons I love esports so much is that people are just generally genuinely excited to be there,” she said. “They’re happy to be playing video games professionally, talking about video games professionally or helping put on a professional video game tournament.”
Kralle was particularly excited to work at a tournament last August that was part of the X Games in Minneapolis.
“I grew up watching the X Games so being there I was participating in something where video games were literally right next to where the motocross course was,” she said.
While the coronavirus pandemic has forced the cancelation of in-person competitions and has impacted sponsors and investors in a variety of ways, Kralle said she is excited to be part of a growing industry that combines so many things she loves, even if it’s not quite what she had in mind when she moved to Los Angeles in her early ‘20s.
“I can definitely say it’s not what I expected,” Kralle said.