When Nevan-Isaiah Pak was a senior at Moanalua High School, the busy student athlete hit the books, competed in wrestling and judo, and enjoyed video games in his free time. Back then, his college plans consisted of enrolling at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa; majoring in journalism; and maybe one day going abroad. Today this 26-year-old Korean-American’s dreams have surpassed his expectations, thanks to electronic sports or esports.
In summer 2023, Pak was one of seven UH students who traveled to South Korea for three-week internships with Gen.G, considered the leading esports company connecting the U.S. and Asia. Gen.G was ranked by Forbes magazine as the eighth most valuable esports company in 2022, with a value of $250 million and estimated 2021 revenues at $17 million.
The internships, administered through a Social Science course within UH Mānoa’s College of Social Sciences, were divided into education and marketing tracks. Pak was one of four on the marketing track.
“The students came away with a unique perspective on the global operations of esports and, in particular, how South Korea – recognized as the modern birthplace of esports – has become a powerhouse in the industry,” said Nyle Sky Kauweloa, the UH esports program director who accompanied the seven interns on the trip. “With this cohort now bringing knowledge and experience back to the state, I’m excited to see how they will change the landscape of esports in Hawaiʻi.”
Pak’s esports-powered sojourn to Seoul was his first time abroad, and was especially significant because of his Korean ancestry. “The work was varied and engaging, starting off simple but ramping up in difficulty pretty quickly,” said Pak. “Plus, the sights were stunning, and the ability to learn a lot more about Korean history and culture was great. We visited historical sites, the Lotte World Tower, a virtual reality theme park and even a massive esports stadium.”
Pak first learned about the UH esports program in 2021, after the Overwatch League came to UH. “I was awestruck by the high level of play, and learning what the gaming world looks like,” said Pak. He also became involved in the UH Discord and League of Legends teams, and even attended the opening of the Waipahu Public Library’s esports tech lab in July 2022 as a UH representative. “We got to meet Governor Ige at the ceremony, and we also worked with a great technology outreach company called Pacxa. The whole experience was fun, and it was nice to help out the community.”
As the senior powers toward graduation in Spring 2024 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, Pak believes esports has leveled up his career choices. “From improving my interviewing skills to video editing, and camera work to writing, esports has helped stretch my creativity,” said Pak. “After graduation, I would like to join a public relations or communications group to create marketing campaigns. But my secret dream job is to join a broadcast team either as a ‘shoutcaster’ – a color commentator who calls the action during games – or as the director of live shows for esports audiences everywhere. That would be an amazing opportunity.”