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By Kendra Barnett, Associate Editor

May 23, 2022 | 5 min read

Gucci wants to foster the next generation of professional esports stars – while ensuring these players have the tools they need to stay on top of their mental and physical wellbeing. A new educational program developed in partnership with Faceit and the World Health Organization (WHO) aims to do just that.

Gucci has teamed with Faceit and WHO to open a new, mental health-focused gaming academy. Unveiled on Sunday during the Grand Finals of the PGL Antwerp Major, a major esports tournament held in Antwerp, Belgium, Gucci Gaming Academy is the first major gaming education program launched by a luxury fashion brand.

Created by the Italian designer in conjunction with Faceit – which, with some 26 million users, is a leading platform for online multiplayer games – Gucci Gaming Academy is a new kind of gaming training program created to not only foster the next generation of great gamers, but to support competitors’ mental health and wellbeing.

“Gucci is at the forefront of the luxury industry’s foray into the world of gaming and as part of our mission to build meaningful relationships with communities in a genuinely authentic way, we are dedicated to supporting the up-and-coming generations of players to help manage the challenges they may face as a result of participating in esports,” said Nicolas Oudinot, executive vice-president of new business and chief executive of Gucci Vault, in a statement shared with The Drum. “Understanding the issues that are relevant to them and learning about these from the people they affect are at the core of this collaboration.”

With WHO as a key partner and advisor, Gucci aims to help up-and-coming gaming talent succeed at their craft while remaining healthy and happy in increasingly high-pressure gaming environments fraught with online trolls as well as mental and physical health risks. Per a statement released by the brand, the program is “designed to provide support and enhance soft skills” via coaching sessions and teamwork-focused tasks.

Each player will be set up with their own cutting-edge equipment, including topline monitors and PCs, as well as personalized Logitech G computer electronic peripherals. They’ll be outfitted with their own custom digital training plan via the Gucci Education platform, and also have the opportunity to work directly with professional coaches to improve their gaming performance and develop competition strategies and tactics – while taking care of their mental and physical health. To equip them with the skills and know-how to transition into a professional gaming role, they will also receive a virtual education on personal branding and player contract literacy.

The program also includes three ambassadors – professional esports commentator James Bardolph, Counter-Strike gaming star Christopher ‘GeT_RiGhT’ Alesund and leading female esports voice Stephanie ‘missharvey’ Harvey – who will serve as advisors to participants, providing monthly one-on-one mentorship meetings to every player.

But individual training is only one side of the coin. The program also includes a range of collaborative training and skills development initiatives. Gamers will participate in group sessions developed in partnership with WHO. Led by professional psychologists, these sessions will cover everything from navigating the challenges of teamwork and performing under stress to operating in the spotlight. Plus, through the Gucci Changemakers Volunteering program, participants will be encouraged to volunteer in local community activities.

Gucci Gaming Academy graphic

“We welcome efforts by Gucci and Faceit to encourage their large online communities to take the necessary steps for better health and wellbeing,” said WHO’s digital channels team lead Andy Pattison in a statement. “We need to continue to reach people with lifesaving health messages where they are, in the palms of their hands.”

Rising stars in the gaming community will be selected by Faceit to join the Academy with a goal of developing their skills to the point that they can be scouted by professional esports teams and go pro. Players will be chosen based on a handful of factors including their in-game performance, soft skills, attitudes and values including their willingness to work in teams and their aptitude for conflict resolution. Selected participants will belong to the Academy for one year or until they are signed to a professional team. Once a player moves on, a new spot opens up to be filled by a newcomer. All Academy participants and graduates will have access to the Gucci and Faceit esports network throughout their careers.

The Academy launches this week with four hand-picked Counter-Strike: Global Offensive players who were chosen from Faceit’s Pro League, a competitive online league that has helped launch the careers of a handful of global esports stars. They include: Lukasz ‘mwlky’ Pachucki from Poland, Mārtinš ‘shadiyy’ Gūtmani from Latvia, Brajan ‘DJL’ Lemecha from Poland and Rokas ‘EspiranTo’ Milasauskas from Lithuania. EspiranTo is the highest-ranked among them in Faceit’s Pro League. The Academy plans to expand the number of participants in the future.

“Together [with Gucci], we identified a need to create a new initiative that would aid the development of new talent. The Academy will offer a clear path-to-pro structure, connecting the dots between the Faceit Pro League, education and wellbeing,” said Faceit cofounder and chief business officer Michele Attisani in a statement.

“The physical and mental demands on players looking to compete at a professional level are high,” she explained. “Players have rigorous training schedules, compete in high-pressure tournaments and [are under] immense pressure from fans, so it’s important that new talent entering the space are equipped with the right support structure at an early stage in their development ... Through our shared vision with Gucci, we hope the Academy helps equip the role models of tomorrow.”

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