Professional Gaming: Stable Career or One Night Stand?
September 30, 2011 | Follow comments
As a gamer since the early days of the original Nintendo, I feel that I’ve experienced an evolution of sorts. I’ve grown up from the traditional platformers of old, and have moved on to a more mature and serious level of gaming. Sure, my friends and I still have fun just relaxing and playing Halo Reach or League of Legends into the early hours of the morning, but I’ve noticed something different during the past few years. I’ve begun to wonder what it would be like to escape from the pressures of college and working part-time and simply turn a mere hobby into a full blown career. Just think about it for a minute. Spending the days playing your game of choice, attending tournaments all across the world, staying in five star hotels, and getting the best gaming equipment around from your sponsors all sounds pretty spectacular, doesn’t it? But can it really last? Could you truly make a living off of your earnings?
When the thought first entered my own mind, I found it astonishingly difficult to fathom explaining to my friends and family that I would drop college and pursue a life of fame and fortune. The thought of giving up the chance to earn a college degree and a fair shot at getting a stable job isn’t easy to imagine. Yet the risk of doing so can potentially grant rewards that would otherwise be unobtainable. As easy as entering the realm of pro gaming may seem, there are some standards that must be considered early on.
Let’s start with dedication. When you think about your favorite game, could you imagine playing that game day after day until you’re perfect it? If you answered no to this question, then pro gaming is not for you. While the guys at MLG (Major League Gaming) and WCG (World Cyber Games) -two major professional gaming competitions- make it appear as if the game is on easy mode, one usually fails to realize that they spent thousands of hours on end playing said game. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from watching streams of people playing DoTA (Defense of the Ancients) and LoL (League of Legends), it’s that these guys live and breathe gaming.
Now, let’s say you’ve jumped on board. You joined a team, trained hard for six months, and won your first major tournament, collecting $20,000 as a reward. You get back home from a week of partying and playing video games with money in your pocket and a few business cards. What now? Well, if you wish to pursue this further, you need to build a stable environment and become committed to the profession. Let’s take a look at the numbers to start off with. Some gaming tournaments offer anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000 for first place (Can be much higher, as demonstrated by LoL’s $5 million season two reward). Now take into consideration the money you have to spend on food, housing, registration fees, and if it’s not paid for, airfare and hotel costs during the tournaments themselves. You also need to take adequate time to practice and play the game consistently, making sure you’re in constant contact with your teammates, and looking for the best sponsors and equipment. And let’s not forget keeping your fans happy with interviews and perhaps weekly video blogs. This is all assuming that you have enough money to start the process and that you can place in the top three consistently. If you cannot adjust your lifestyle or fundraise to come up with the necessary support, you may want to call McDonald’s and ask for your job back.
I’ve mentioned LoL a few times, and I’d like to briefly explain the inspiration for this article. Back in the summer of 2010, I began to play the game for entertainment. It was a fun and addicting new game that kept my attention, even when I wasn’t actually playing the game. This lead to me watching the top rated players on their respective streams, and it wasn’t until then that I realized how “Average Joe” these guys were. They would talk about going to class and drinking on the weekends, stuff that is common talk amongst my own friends. A few months later, these same guys announced that they had gotten sponsored and were entering international tournaments such as WCG and DreamHack. In fact, six of the top players are dropping college and moving into a house together in New York in the next few weeks to establish themselves as professional gamers. It really hits home that this fantasy -this dream that so many of us have- isn’t out of the question in this day and age.
So, without making this article any longer, I’ll present some closing thoughts. First off, I do believe that professional gaming can become a career and not just a one night stand, especially with the reboot that eSports and pro gaming in general has seen in recent months. Titles such as Starcraft 2 and DoTA 2 have a rapidly growing fan base and competitive scene which other games are taking note of. And of course, with anything, having money and support starting off is a huge advantage. You can still become the world’s best Street Fighter player someday. It all depends on how much work you wish to put into the process.