After introducing you, dear reader, to the world of eSports, it has grown worldwide with several high-profile tournaments for Starcraft 2, League of Legends and DoTA 2. With Starcraft 2 expansion 'Heart of the Swarm' less than a month away, professional gamers are practising their craft with fervour. But what is it like to be a professional gamer, and how do you get into doing such a thing in the first place?
Since its birth in Korea, eSports has moved worldwide thanks to video streaming and the rising popularity of tournaments. Players travel all over the world to compete, but while gaming for a living might be the nerd dream of many, it’s harder work than you’d think.
As in other sports, most pro gamers belong to a team. One of the most commercially successful teams around is the US-based team Evil Geniuses (known as EG) who recruit pro players of Starcraft 2, League of Legends, DoTA 2, Counter-Strike and more besides.
EG, like many teams has its own house where the best players actually live, playing and training together day in and day out.
These houses vary when it comes to their swank-factor, but for the most part, these Houses see 10-15 players all living together, sleeping in bunk beds practising hard for 10-12 hours a day when not in tournaments. They often make appearances in tiny weekly tournaments with paltry prize pools for the sake of keeping their competitive muscles strong. Many players stream their practise sessions for additional revenue.
Whether that’s living the dream or being stuck in a sweaty hell is your call. It’s perfectly possible to practise as a pro from your own home, but the best of the best cram together, living and breathing the game as literally as they can.
This isn’t just Starcraft-specific; up-and-coming giants League of Legends and DoTA 2 also tend to get their team players in a house. In fact, since those are 5v5 team-based games, you could argue it’s all the more important that players dive right in. Team houses for games like Counter-Strike and Halo 4, however, are significantly less common.
All of this is to prepare for countless high-profile, high-money tournaments going on near-constantly. At the time of this article, The best of the best of Starcraft 2 are duking it out in the Global Starcraft League (GSL)'s final Wings of Liberty tournament before Heart of the Swarm’s release, and will then swiftly jet off to Dallas for MLG’s Winter Championship, whereas the best League of Legends has to offer are currently battling for glory and cash in the prestigious Season 3 Championship; not to mention the literal dozens upon dozens of smaller tournaments where seasoned veterans and fresh faces are duking it out right now. It’s mostly certainly all work and no rest for a pro gamer.
“When they start out it’s like, ‘Yes! I’ve got this organization supporting me and I’ve got all this travel money and I want to go to all these tournaments! Then they do that, and it’s like, ‘Ahhhhh! That’s too many tournaments!” - Evil Geniuses CEO, Alex Garfield.
It’s a life where you're constantly pressing on to avoid obscurity, and it's still difficult to make a stable living. The best of the best have earned hundreds of thousands of dollars in tournament winnings alone, on top of sponsorships and ad revenue, but for all but the elite few the pay cheques are a little slimmer.
However as eSports continues to gain steam throughout the western world and as tournaments and events get into their stride and structure becomes more standardised throughout the continents, professional gaming is swiftly becoming a stable and legitimate way to make a living. So drop out now, tell your parents later!
Of course getting to that level is no mean feat; like any other sport you have to be exceptional at your chosen game, and you’ll have to get yourself noticed. Most of the smaller tournaments are free for anyone to enter, and can be played from home. So if you or anyone you know fancies themselves to be at the apex of skill at their game of choice, why not see what’s out there? You just might become a superstar.