Tech grad Chedli Ben Hassine opens first e-sports ‘gym’ in France
Last May, WVU Tech grad Chedli Ben Hassine sat in a crowd of caps and gowns, eager to mark the end of his undergraduate journey and claim his degree in Information Systems. His name was called. He walked the stage. He hasn’t stopped moving since.
Nearly nine months and more than 4,000 miles later, he’s just as eager. Only now he’s in Paris, France. His cap? A gaming headset. His gown? The title of Founder and CEO at BeGame, a one-of-a-kind e-sports facility where gamers can play, practice and compete in video gaming competitions.
“BeGame is the first e-sports ‘gym’ in France,” he said. “Video gaming is an activity that has become more and more individual. We are trying to change that. There was no existing place that allowed players to meet, share and play together – or practice toward a pro-gamer career. Our goal was to create a place where people can enjoy playing video games and virtual reality, but also practice and compete in e-sports tournaments that we organize every week.”
Competitive gaming is a fast-growing global industry. Last year, Business Insider reported that the industry could reach $1.5 billion by 2020.
“There are now official professional contracts for players. While Paris Saint Germain bought [star soccer player] Neymar, their e-sports team recruited a FIFA 2018 roster,” said Chedli.
He said that there has even been some buzz about e-sports events being included in the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.
“If that’s the case, how can people practice at home? We at BeGame allow players to meet coaches to help them boost their skills and practice in a dedicated place,” he said.
That dedicated place – BeGame’s headquarters in the Lognes area of Paris – is purpose-built for gamers. It’s decked out in gaming hardware and comfortable seating with ambient colored lighting. The facility includes a variety of gaming consoles for both competitive and casual gaming, a virtual reality room and a studio for livestreaming.
The company also organizes gaming competitions every weekend.
Chedli said he’s been blown away by the positive response and the breadth of people he meets in the course of the competitions.
“Every Saturday I wonder who will be there. And every Saturday, I see dozens of players coming from all over the country to compete, collaborate and finally shake hands with a smile no matter the result. This is priceless,” he said.
The co-op experience
Born and raised in France, Chedli has been a gamer since he was very young. He came to the U.S. in 2012 to attend a preparatory school in Atlanta, Georgia. After that, he studied at WVU Tech on a soccer scholarship.
He still found time in his busy collegiate schedule for gaming and was an active member of the college’s Association for Computing Machinery. When he competed alongside club members in a HearthStone inter-collegiate cup, he knew that he wanted to get involved in competitive gaming.
While he was wrapping up his degree at Tech, he was simultaneously hatching the idea for BeGame. He reached out to an old friend, David Lenogue.
“We have known each other for almost 10 years. David and I always wanted to disrupt, innovate and bring something new to the table. When I told him I had this project, his first instinct was to jump to the business plan. He studied commerce and sports management, which are both important skills toward the achievement of a project in e-sports,” said Chedli.
“We started to Skype regularly in March. After I graduated in May, I went back to France and we started having more concrete reunions together. We finally launched BeGame in July,” he said.
Since then, it’s been a whirlwind. Chedli spent six months building his e-sports network and working to promote the company. He’s even garnered some valuable help from influential gaming companies.
“Our main sponsor, Lioncast, is a leader in e-sports hardware in Germany. They have equipped our place with e-sports accessories that make players feel like professionals and boost their confidence. They also provide equipment to our players who would like to participate to competitions and represent BeGame,” he said.
BeGame is up and running, and Chedli said that the company’s training has already helped gamers win thousands of euros across dozens of competitions. He has his eye on a big future for the business and for gaming in France.
“This is really an honor for me. I have met hundreds of players and professionals in the area, and finally I am now helping other projects in gaming, e-sports and VR,” he said. “My plan for BeGame is to become the reference in terms of e-sports, gaming and virtual reality in France and on an international scale.”
He’ll wrap up his master’s degree in management information systems at the prestigious Grenoble School of Management (Grenoble École de Management). He plans to use his skills to continue growing BeGame and to help other young people who are interested in starting their own businesses. He’s also working with G-Zones, a startup and the first social media platform for gaming and e-sports in the country.
He says there’s another big project in the works, but we’ll have to wait to see it. (It may or may not contain the words “next-generation” and “gaming room.”)
Chedli admits that he’s got a lot of irons in the fire. He’s working hard to build something that will connect more and more people to his passion for collaborative gaming. He’s knows it’s going to take some serious work, and though he’s forging his dream in e-sports, there’s more to it than games. He wants to bring people together again.
“Union, sharing and peace is really what motivates me in life. In a place like BeGame, people meet, people share, people work together with a smile. People don’t mind where you’re from or who you are. They just collaborate toward a common goal,” he said.