The music of the game plays into your ears through your headset as thousands cheer. The stillness of your gaming room is haunting as you sit in front of your computer, streaming yourself playing video games to an audience.
A new profession has been created, one that many were sure would never come true. A professional gamer. It’s a new job where you get paid for being good at playing certain popular video games like League of Legends or Starcraft 2.
Video games, gamers, and eSports have endured much since they first began. The mockery. The ridicule. The opposition from family and friends. Yet today, eSports is in the hundreds of millions in terms of viewers. Today, anyone can proudly call themselves a professional gamer and be praised instead of mocked. However, it’s not all fun and games, there’s a lot of work behind the scenes for these gamers to get to where they are. Long hours gaming, financial issues, networking with companies, sponsorships, and health issues.
“The grind never ends, and starts bright and early. Wake up, get yourselves cleaned up and fed, and it’s straight to business. For professional full-time players. They start the day with a practice meeting, establish typically what their daily or weekly goals are, what areas of improvement will be the focus,” says Ronald Ly, current Head Coach of the University of California at Irvine eSports (UCI).
“Extensive testing of game knowledge, evaluation of my coaching philosophy and chemistry with the organization, my leadership and mentorship skills, my managerial ability, and so on,” He says. “Many phone calls, many meetings, many scrimmages. It’s hard work and countless hours at a desk studying, polishing, analyzing, and explaining,” Ly said.
“Every large eSports organization right now started in a basement or a bedroom somewhere by someone with a big dream. Players at the very top of the ladders in their respective games will talk, share their visions, and start from there. There’s always scouting involved, tryouts too, but I wouldn’t say there’s a formal path or formula for making an eSports team,” he said.
Whether you play alone or on a team, practicing your skills can take anywhere from five to 12 hours a day. Not to mention the cooking, cleaning, shopping, taking out the trash, and any other chores that need to be done if you live alone.
KarQ (Real Name: Nathan Chan), works 12-hour days as a content creator and Twitch streamer for Toronto Defiant, a competitive Overwatch eSports team.
His daily routine: get up at noon, eat, stream from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m., eat, and work on videos until 4 a.m. Many parents still believe video games are a waste of time, and you’re better off studying for school.
“It isn’t until they started seeing me make some earnings here and there, start seeing packages delivered to the door full of peripherals and jerseys and invitations, did they really start to look into it more closely,” said Ly.
“Then when I’m flying from A to B and appearing on shows, that they began to really believe that it could be a viable career. I moved to California for a few months, they realized ‘Wow this is real. This is what the world is like now,’” he said.
Not all parents think that way, there are those who were gamers themselves when they were young, and are more lenient with their offspring.
“My parents weren’t very restrictive in my gaming habits,” says Mackenize Coates, now a member of Humber’s competitive Smash Ultimate team. When he was a kid, his dad would sit down and game with him.
“They did support me a lot actually. At first the local Barrie tournaments were completely free and it allowed for easy travel. They drove me to events and everything,” said Coates.
When he and some friends wanted to travel to places like Toronto for tournaments, his parents would drive them there and back. But how exactly does a serious player make a living playing video games? There are several ways, one is to compete in tournaments and win prize money.
“The answer varies from person to person, and from game to game, and organization to organization. If we’re talking about Overwatch alone, a player who pays in collegiate will be making their earnings in scholarship money and tournament prizing,” said Ly.
“If we’re talking about the amateur or semi-professional scene, the money is scarce. A lot of that depends on what organization you’re representing, if any organization at all. Players and staff at this level are making very little, not even a minimum wage job the vast majority of the time,” he said.
Ly says to make the big bucks; a player has to get signed to a popular franchised organization while competing in a big title.
Another way is to make YouTube videos or stream on Twitch.
“On Twitch, when you stream, you can have
people subscribe to you on Twitch for $4.99 a month. You get a percentage of that, you don’t get all of it, and you can have direct donations and the Twitch donations which are called bits,” said Chan.
For those aspiring to enter the eSports scene, there are some precautions to keep in mind.
Players must eat sensibly, find time to exercise and take special care of their wrists. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Repetitive strain injury (RSI) are real risks for people gaming for long periods of time.
“Take care of your body and take care of your mind. The most common problem I see is players who are obsessed with the grind, so consumed in the race to the top, that they’ll burnout in their early teens or twenties,” said Ly.
If you are a young man or woman with dreams of playing games for a living, the dream can become a reality. The gaming scene has changed and evolved drastically over the last few decades. It is here to stay.
“eSports is not a fad, it’s not a ‘now’ thing. It’s a forever thing,” said Ly.