At 19 years old, this Rochester-area native is carving out his own path in Esports
For Owen Roe, a love of video games led to a career in graphic design. That pursuit now has him as an art director at the Esports/tech company eFuse, which is described as a "Linkedin for gamers" and has high-profile athletes such as Odell Beckham Jr., Ezekial Elliot and Seth Curry invested in it.
ROCHESTER — Owen Roe knew at a very young age that school wasn’t for him.
Now, it isn’t exactly unheard of for a 12-year-old in middle school to hate doing just that, going to school. But for the Rochester-area native, his strong dislike for it pushed him to pursue another avenue that actually interested him, which was video games.
Again, it’s not exactly breaking new ground by saying that a middle schooler would rather play video games than go to school, but Roe saw this avenue for more than just sitting down and playing Call of Duty or Minecraft for hours on hours. He saw the career opportunities.
Through connections he made online, Roe started doing graphic design work for his friends’ Call of Duty team, which eventually grew to him working for Esports organizations. Now, at 19 years old, Roe is the art director at eFuse, an Esports and tech company described as a "Linkedin for gamers," and has high-profile athletes such as Odell Beckham Jr., Ezekial Elliot and Seth Curry invested in it.
“(Esports) has been such a good experience for my life as a whole,” Roe said. “Without it, I don’t know what I’d be doing right now. If I had just continued on … my life would be so much more depressing than it currently is, to be honest with you. I’m very happy with how things have gone.”
Roe’s family has lived in Byron for most of his life with his dad working at Mayo Clinic and his mom working various jobs in the area. Roe went to Friedell Middle School in Rochester where he became motivated to find a path away from the classroom that might give him different options.
That pushed him further toward video games where he saw them as more than just a leisurely pastime.
“There came a point at the end of seventh grade where I’m like, ‘I’m not gonna live like this anymore. This is ridiculous. I feel like I’m wasting my days here.’ I know I was 12, so that’s not out of the ordinary for a 12-year-old, but I was like, ‘I’m going to do something. I’m just going to choose one thing and I'm going to get really good at it,’ so that’s when I decided to become a designer and make it official.”
His first client was a group of kids who had a Call of Duty team they started for fun, and Roe volunteered to make a banner for their Twitter page.
Roe continued doing this for teams, but mostly for free until he reached high school, where he started seeing more “serious” clients come his way.
“That was just freelancing basically, but by my sophomore year I was working for conventional teams, and that was like in the middle-tier so they weren’t paying great, but it was still more than I was getting paid years earlier,” he said.
The following year, Roe landed his first real contract designer job with the Esports organization Evil Geniuses, which is valued at $225 million.
Roe said his experience with other top-tier Esports organizations as an unpaid intern “without that title,” and him not listing his age on the application helped him land the job.
“My dad actually asked me, I swear to God, he said, ‘Why don’t you just drop out?’” Roe said when he told his dad about landing the job. “I’m like, ‘It’s a cool gig and all, but I don’t know.’… A little too risky to just call it.”
That junior year was also taking place in the midst of the pandemic, which played out perfectly with his designer job with Evil Geniuses.
“My days boiled down to opening a Zoom class, muting the tab, muting the microphone and just working on the side,” Roe said. “(School) was definitely secondary.”
Roe spent his junior and senior years of high school working with Evil Geniuses on projects that not only built up his resume and portfolio but began getting his name more out there in the industry.
He and his boss worked on a three-month rebranding project of the Evil Geniuses brand where Roe took control of the company’s social media designs. He would create social cards for the team to use for their social media pages after they competed and played in tournaments. These projects and others helped show Roe he had the ability to work at this level.
“My path was pretty much clear from that point out,” Roe said.
When Roe graduated from Century High School with an offer from eFuse to become their art director, the decision was easy for him. He wanted to make another change in his life as well, wanting to get away from the Minnesota cold and move south to Dallas, a city that’s also been known as a hub for Esports.
While he’s unsure of how long he wants to be in Dallas, or working in Esports, Roe is proud of the life he’s carving out for himself in design already at 19 years old.
“With a designer, it has elements of emotion, but there’s a part that’s utility instead of just emotion … and I find that really interesting because it’s like utilitarian art in a way, so that’s why I pursued design in particular,” Roe said. “I probably could’ve been an artist, but if I was an artist, I wouldn’t be able to surround myself with all these people who are genuinely, deeply impressive and interesting. And it’s honestly a privilege to have that and I’m really glad to be here.”