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Why We Should Elevate Hawaiʻi as a Global Esports Hub

By Kelly J. Ueoka, President

As we transition to an economy focused on innovation and technology, Hawaiʻi has an opportunity to lead the world in more than just tourism and hospitality. The “Aloha State” is prioritizing creating a sustainable and scalable economy and embracing new opportunities by leveraging its ready workforce, temperate climate, and famously diverse culture. One such opportunity lies in esports (short for “electronic sports”), also known as “gaming.”

People may not realize that esports and gaming represents a huge component of the global technology industry. Gaming refers to the culture and practice of playing video games in a connected, interactive environment, often competitively. It is not an exaggeration to say that gaming encapsulates the future of tech. Companies like Microsoft prioritize gaming innovation in part because of its growth potential. By 2025, the global gaming industry is estimated to be worth $268 billion.

Esports has also caught the eye of government entities. Here’s why:

  • U.S. esports revenues broke $1 billion in 2021 and are expected to climb to over $1.6 billion by 2024.
  • An economic impact study from ESL Gaming revealed the real, positive impacts major esports competitions had on their host cities. ESL’s 2019 DreamHack brought in $3.6 million in direct spending and generated nearly $160,000 in taxes and fees for the City of Dallas in just two days.
  • Hitmarker uncovered that despite the pandemic, the gaming job market continued to grow, increasing by 5% from 2020 to 2021, translating to more than 41,000 jobs.

Apart from the potential profits and jobs, gaming represents an extremely complex computational workload, and, therefore, pushes the envelope of computing capabilities at every turn. As one of the world’s fastest growing forms of media, gaming is interactive, dynamic, and variable, meaning that there are a virtually infinite number of potential scenarios each time a game is played. Advances in gaming, where technology must constantly evolve in real-time, have untold implications for enterprise and personal computing.

These young gamers are exposed to advanced technologies and computer science, and learn how to think critically and engage in digital worlds. Providing safe and equitable access to gaming facilities, such as computers and consoles, could put middle and high school-aged kids on the path to developing a competitive skillset and finding a fulfilling field of interest.

For students, gaming and esports can represent a legitimate gateway into STEM (science, technology, engineering, or math) interests, academic studies, and eventual careers. A 2020 study tracked students’ beliefs and attitudes before and after participating in an esports program hosted by the North American Scholastic esports Federation (NASEF). After a year, the students’ most positively shifted beliefs were “I know STEM is good for me” and “STEM is important for what I want to study later.”

Esports has also become a viable pathway to higher education through competitive programs and scholarships. Locally, Hawaiʻi Pacific University offers collegiate esports scholarships and has been nationally recognized for its state-of-the-art esports arena. The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa earned its first tournament win at the Collegiate Valorant Fall Brawl in October 2021 and a month later, was nominated as a top 10 finalist for best collegiate esports program at the esports Awards in Arlington Texas. UH has also distinguished its esports program by being the first higher ed institution to host Overwatch League regular season tournaments, playoffs, and finals.

Hawaiʻi is well positioned to be a center for gaming excellence. Our geography, situated between the mainland and Asia, represents an ideal location from a global gaming standpoint. 45% of the world’s gamers (or 1.48 billion gamers) are based in Asia. The Overwatch League, the world’s first franchised esports league with 20 teams around the world, recently chose Hawaiʻi as the location for its 2021 playoffs and grand finals.

Given the growing recognition of Hawaiʻi as a gaming hub and Hawaiʻi’s pending infrastructure investments, the state’s broadband capabilities have the potential to leapfrog ahead of other regions. Hawaiʻi is the ultimate melting pot, with various cultures and communities living and working together every day. Gaming and esports is a global phenomenon that brings people together from all over the planet in unexpected ways. As we embrace this next chapter of technology development in Hawaiʻi, gaming, which represents the future of computing on so many levels, is a vital opportunity for our state.

Mentoring the Next Generation of Tech Workers

Authored by Jean Schneider, Executive Director, Workforce Development

If you have a mentor, you will likely reap the rewards throughout your career. Mentors, often those in positions of leadership with many years of experience, act as capacity builders and trusted advisors on specific work-related issues or on career decisions, some of which may impact even larger life paths. Mentoring can be invaluable for mentees who may be at early or midpoints in their careers and for those who want to accelerate their progress to their next levels.

The research is positive: 97% of those with a mentor say mentoring is valuable1. Mentees are promoted five times more often than those without mentors, and mentors themselves are six times more likely to be promoted2. Mentoring supports career development, psychosocial support, interpersonal skills, and networking skills,3 and has been positively related to increased employee commitment and decreased turnover rates4.

A good mentor facilitates reflective thinking, serves as a role model for growth and learning, and helps the mentee set goals and develop numerous skills needed to be successful in their career. The mentee can improve their ability to resolve challenges and benefit from reaching their goals through accountability. Mentors themselves also benefit through the satisfaction of helping a less-experienced employee build skills and knowledge. And if a mentor has been mentored at some point in their career, they are able to pay forward the positive experiences they had as a mentee.

Here in Hawaiʻi, as we build a more sustainable economy, we are embracing innovation and technology transformation as a way to support the diversification of the state. A crucial aspect of this is developing a talent pipeline of skilled workers, some of whom have never worked in tech before. For these new employees, mentorship will be vital.

Currently, Pacxa is spearheading a new Workforce Development Program to help get Hawaiʻi’s economy back on track. Our program is paid, work-based training that provides mentoring, real-world work experience, opportunities to obtain IT industry certifications, and career services.

In less than a year, our Workforce Development Program helped four participants jump-start their IT careers. Thanks to successful training and mentoring, they are equipped to excel in their new roles. These candidates came from various backgrounds, having worked previously in non-IT occupations or are recent college graduates with limited professional experience. We believe strongly in mentoring as a component of workforce development because it works, and we see its potential for making a difference for our state and our people.

We invite Hawai‘i’s business community to join us in preparing a ready and capable technology workforce, and to develop our future leaders for the workplace challenges that lie ahead. Pacxa is looking for partners who want to help build opportunities for current and future generations to work and live well in Hawai‘i. Interested parties can email us at [email protected].


  1. National Mentoring Day Facts and FAQ. Retrieved from Facts and FAQ | National Mentoring Day.
  2. Quast, L. (2011.) How Becoming a Mentor Can Boost Your Career. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/lisaquast/2011/10/31/how-becoming-a-mentor-can-boost-your-career/?sh=583f9bda5f57
  3. Neely, A. R., Cotton, J., & Neely, A. D. (2017). E-mentoring: A Model and Review of the Literature. AIS Transactions on Human-Computer Interaction, 9(3), 220-242. Retrieved from https://aisel.aisnet.org/thci/vol9/iss3/3
  4. Giacumo, L.A., Chen, J. Seguinot-Cruz, A. (2020). Evidence on the Use of Mentoring Programs and Practices to Support Workplace Learning: A Systematic Multiple-Studies Review. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 33(3), 259-303. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary-wiley-com.eres.library.manoa.hawaii.edu/doi/pdfdirect/10.1002/piq.21324
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