RALEIGH - When your team name is one number off one of the most widely-recognized esports organizations in the world, you have to do what you have to do to stand out, to stand apart. You can take this challenge one of two ways: authentically, or inauthentically.
G1’s founders are attempting an earnest blend of traditional sports and esports in a way truly not seen before. Shaq invested in NRG. Gilbert Arenas was a part-owner of Final Boss. Athletes like Ezekiel Elliott and Kyle Van Noy are connected with XSET. Athlete investment in esports is great for photo ops and publicity, but very few are connected with the nuts and bolts of the organizations they represent. Kenny Vaccaro is no one’s figurehead. He’s an owner, he’s invested deep in the business side of G1, not just the publicity.
“Us three, we really do run the show from the ground up as far as strategics, financials, players, sponsors; Like it's just us three,” said Hunter Swensson, one of G1’s three-headed ownership Cerberus in an interview with Forerunner. “So, it's a unique situation. Like we always say, we're entrenched in this.”
“I’ve been a gamer for even longer than I’ve played football, and I’ve always thought of myself as a gamer first,” Vaccaro said in the press release that heralded G1’s public beginnings.
Gaming has been a hobby for Vaccaro since he was four years old, he says, and if it hadn’t been for football, he might have been here, on one of these stages. Growing up in Brownwood, Texas, football was a powerful draw, and Vaccaro was excellent at it – you don’t get All-American honors and are selected by the New Orleans Saints in the first round of the NFL draft for being average among the elite.
“Halo was the first game that I could actually, really compete against my friends in,” said Vaccaro in a follow-up text message with Forerunner.
G1’s entrance into Halo was something borne out of genuine love, not as a publicity stunt or trying to cash in on the sport of the future. Swensson has been around the scene for multiple decades and is one of the scene’s premiere montagers, and their other owner, Cody Hendrix, has been around as well. This isn’t inauthentic, outside ownership that doesn’t understand the endemic space deal, this smacks of genuine investment in the future of the esport.
The HCS has seen revitalization since the release of Halo Infinite, and it’s attracted players from all over the globe to compete. However, the scene’s seen a decade of declining popularity for a number of reasons. This isn’t the game to invest in if you’re looking to make a quick buck. Investment in Halo, particularly for a brand-new company, has to be guided by authenticity first and foremost.
G1’s actual team is scrappy, they punch above their weight at every possible opportunity. Their success is somewhat guided by an organizational philosophy: everyone is a gamer first, everything else second.
“You can be a heart surgeon: you're a gamer first,” Hendrix said. “You can be an NFL, Pro Bowler athlete, you’re a gamer first, You can be a schoolteacher, when you go home, you're playing Warzone with your buddies. In fact, you're a gamer first.”
G1 continues its campaign through the open bracket on Dec. 18.