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In the main stadium, a crowd of thousands of people are cheering. The atmosphere is charged, like a football match or a gladiatorial contest. But the ten thousand spectators are watching two booths in which rows of young men sit almost motionless.

One young man's head bobs occasionally as he watches a screen in monkish silence, strain visible on his face. On screen, a fast-moving stream of videogame wizards and warriors smash each other into pulp.

His opponent is barely moving, also. It's the crowd that whips up the atmosphere. They're clearly familiar with every character, from rock giants down to puny minions. When one player makes a mistake there's an audible intake of breath from the thousands watching.

 
 

The prize pot for another fantasy battle final, Dota 2's the Invitational, swelled past $10 million after gamers worldwide clubbed together to buy in-game items (largely useless trinkets bought with real money) with a goal of ensuring the prize pot was a record-breaker. Gamers themselves have willed today's high-stakes tournaments into being. There are more than five top players who have earned more than a million dollars each in the past two years. Many of those watching dream of turning pro themselves.

Evil Geniuses' Peter ‘PPD' Dager has first hand experience of gaming at the top level, placing third at this year's invitational and banking $1 million for his team. But despite competing in front of enormous crowds for even bigger prize pots, he says pro gaming is still a niche interest.

"I don't think it's that mainstream," he explains, "I mean, I tell people I play games for a living and they give me the weirdest look. I don't think they believe me."

And yet the emerging phenomenon has terrestrial TV stations worried. Gaming has been largely abandoned by conventional television. BSkyB started televising and sponsoring the Championship Gaming Series with much fanfare in 2007. In 2009, it collapsed, a victim of the credit crunch.

 
 

Online TV services such as Twitch, though, knocked down the geographical barriers that used to stand in the way of gamers in the West enjoying eSports. Twitch doesn't rely on Western companies stumping up the money for stadium space. Instead, the service streams matches from Asia, along with the emerging American and European tournaments.

In South Korea, where there is a Ministry for the internet, the fuse was lit under eSports in the late nineties and early noughties. Strategy game Starcraft rapidly went on to become, in effect, South Korea's national sport. In 2005, at Busan stadium in South Korea, 120,000 people watched a Starcraft match – the biggest audience in any Korean sporting event. Millions of Westerners now tune in online.

Jordan ‘Jurd' Crowley, 19, is the team captain (and self- described ‘backbone') of one of Ireland's top Call of Duty teams. He says that the atmosphere around his ‘sport' has changed tangibly in the past few months.

"About a year ago, eSports suddenly went ‘pro'," he says. "Before, you'd walk in and it would be a clique of people who you probably knew already. Suddenly, it's a worldwide phenomenon. Personally, I love the atmosphere. The roaring fans and the enthusiasm of the commentators – it feels like a real sport, not something on a games console. You are always thinking of the people watching at home when competing.

 
 
 
 

You don't want to let your fans down – they are the reason for being able to make a sustainable profession from gaming."

Audiences for games are global, and viewing figures often outpace ‘real' sporting events including the Winter Olympics. Since 2010, the amount of eSports watched around the world has increased by 1557%.

"If you are the best at your game and it happens to be a very popular one, then life-changing amounts of money can be earned," adds Gregg Baker, Head of Community at giffgaff, a mobile network launching League of Legends tournaments in the UK. "The best teams in the world compete for multimillion prize pots in South Korea and elsewhere. Add to this sponsorships – one of the UK's best teams, Team Dignitas, is sponsored by Intel – and you can soon start earning a salary of up to $1m a year if you are at the top of your tree."

The success of big teams is often driven directly by fans. Die-hards have been reported to get gaming team logos tattooed onto their bodies. Others donate and subscribe to the Twitch channels of teams big and small. With a culture which is economically booming without the presence of mainstream (ie non-tech) sponsors, brands seem desperate to hurl money at gaming teams, and turn pros into genuine stars.

"It can be glamorous," says Baker. "Before an international football match in South Korea, a Korean eSports team was brought into the dressing room to motivate the footballers as they look up to these professional gamers. In the West, more mainstream companies are now looking to embrace these newly created celebrities."

 

When you're playing with pro players, put your best self for- ward. Try hard, communicate well, and show critical thinking. If you're playing consistently with pro players in games, you'll develop a reputation. Your best chance of being recognized is if they think highly of you.

Being a pro player is more of a lifestyle than an occupation. You'll have a practice schedule, sponsor obligations, and may even be required to move to live in a team house. Be prepared to give it your all if this is truly your desired profession.

The best of the best will always rise to the top. Always look to how you can improve yourself to get better. You can't control your teammates' actions. The best of the best are always hyper-focused on how they can improve, not blaming others for their mistakes.

It's very different to play the game as a release from responsibilities as opposed to it being your main responsibility. Lots of pro players can burn out because of this. If you want to be around for a while, make sure you understand that this is like working 60-80 hours per week.

Study those who are already at that level. Study the top players and analyze what they do that separates them from the rest. An understanding of this and how to incorporate it into your own play is essential.

 
 
 
 
 

Baker says that the key to finding stardom is dogged persistence - and choosing the right game. Dota 2, League of Legends and other MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) games are popular now, but Baker thinks racing games and fighting games are on the rise. "An up and coming one to get involved in could be Hearthstone, a newly released card game that is building a following fast, with over 20m downloads," he says.

Pro gamers themselves queue up to tell hopefuls that the position is not easy to attain – or hold onto. Teams such as Fariko Dragons pick their best in a merciless, gladiatorial style, with any group of gamers free to invite themselves to internal tournaments, and attempt to beat a Dragons team and thus gain admission. There are three levels of Fariko team: Yin, Yang, and Dragons. The hand-picked Dragons compete with other teams for money. The other two fight constantly for a place. For ex-pros, there are other options within the industry, such as commentating, or managing young hopefuls. But the time to make a mark is very, very limited. Many gamers ‘burn out' by 25.

 
 

Evil Geniuses' Dager, though, argues that the possibilities for players have exploded in the past couple of years.

"I definitely think gaming is a viable career now," he says. "It's an incredibly fast growing industry. Three to four years ago we were nowhere and now, you know, it's legit. I mean, there are tonnes of gamers making bigger salaries than if they did four years of college. Of course there's a little bit less job security because the industry's so uncertain, but right now I don't see any reason why the industry wouldn't continue to grow and gamers wouldn't be able to find careers – not only playing, but casting, managing..."

The top players in the world are still largely Asian. Competing against South Korean teams, in particular is daunting. Teams often live together, like Olympic sportsmen, and practice for up to 12 hours per day. Gamers are often discouraged from having relationships.

"People think it's just a game," says Dager. "They do not understand how much work myself and others like me put into it. They think my life is easy when in reality it's actually stressful. On an average day, I usually game five to ten hours."

Dager, 21, says that he doesn't worry about burning out – as long as he is able to maintain his monkish focus on the game. "I love to compete and unless I could find that same competition somewhere else I don't see myself stopping. I don't really believe in the age-clock. As long as I am still able to focus myself entirely on Dota and eliminate other distractions I could play Dota as long as I wanted to."

 
 
 
Feature:  

Pro Gaming: How to Make Millions

PG_topbanner

In the main stadium, a crowd of thousands of people are cheering. The atmosphere is charged, like a football match or a gladiatorial contest. But the ten thousand spectators are watching two booths in which rows of young men sit almost motionless.

One young man’s head bobs occasionally as he watches a screen in monkish silence, strain visible on his face. On screen, a fast-moving stream of videogame wizards and warriors smash each other into pulp.

gladiatorial

His opponent is barely moving, also. It’s the crowd that whips up the atmosphere. They’re clearly familiar with every character, from rock giants down to puny minions. When one player makes a mistake there’s an audible intake of breath from the thousands watching.

PG_parallax1

The prize pot for another fantasy battle final, Dota 2’s the Invitational, swelled past $10 million after gamers worldwide clubbed together to buy in-game items (largely useless trinkets bought with real money) with a goal of ensuring the prize pot was a record-breaker. Gamers themselves have willed today’s high-stakes tournaments into being. There are more than five top players who have earned more than a million dollars each in the past two years. Many of those watching dream of turning pro themselves.

Evil Geniuses’ Peter ‘PPD’ Dager has first hand experience of gaming at the top level, placing third at this year’s invitational and banking $1 million for his team. But despite competing in front of enormous crowds for even bigger prize pots, he says pro gaming is still a niche interest.

1million

”I don’t think it’s that mainstream,” he explains, “I mean, I tell people I play games for a living and they give me the weirdest look. I don’t think they believe me.”

And yet the emerging phenomenon has terrestrial TV stations worried. Gaming has been largely abandoned by conventional television. BSkyB started televising and sponsoring the Championship Gaming Series with much fanfare in 2007.
In 2009, it collapsed, a victim of the credit crunch.

PG_parallax2

Online TV services such as Twitch, though, knocked down the geographical barriers that used to stand in the way of gamers in the West enjoying eSports. Twitch doesn’t rely on Western companies stumping up the money for stadium space. Instead, the service streams matches from Asia, along with the emerging American and European tournaments.

In South Korea, where there is a Ministry for the internet, the fuse was lit under eSports in the late nineties and early noughties. Strategy game Starcraft rapidly went on to become, in effect, South Korea’s national sport. In 2005, at Busan stadium in South Korea, 120,000 people watched a Starcraft match – the biggest audience in any Korean sporting event. Millions of Westerners now tune in online.

twitch

Jordan ‘Jurd’ Crowley, 19, is the team captain (and self- described ‘backbone’) of one of Ireland’s top Call of Duty teams. He says that the atmosphere around his ‘sport’ has changed tangibly in the past few months.

“About a year ago, eSports suddenly went ‘pro’,” he says. “Before, you’d walk in and it would be a clique of people who you probably knew already. Suddenly, it’s a worldwide phenomenon. Personally, I love the atmosphere. The roaring fans and the enthusiasm of the commentators – it feels like a real sport, not something on a games console. You are always thinking of the people watching at home when competing.

PG_parallax3

You don’t want to let your fans down – they are the reason for being able to make a sustainable profession from gaming.”

Audiences for games are global, and viewing figures often outpace ‘real’ sporting events including the Winter Olympics. Since 2010, the amount of eSports watched around the world has increased by 1557%.

“If you are the best at your game and it happens to be a very popular one, then life-changing amounts of money can be earned,” adds Gregg Baker, Head of Community at giffgaff, a mobile network launching League of Legends tournaments in the UK. “The best teams in the world compete for multimillion prize pots in South Korea and elsewhere. Add to this sponsorships – one of the UK’s best teams, Team Dignitas, is sponsored by Intel – and you can soon start earning a salary of up to $1m a year if you are at the top of your tree.”

The success of big teams is often driven directly by fans. Die-hards have been reported to get gaming team logos tattooed onto their bodies. Others donate and subscribe to the Twitch channels of teams big and small. With a culture which is economically booming without the presence of mainstream (ie non-tech) sponsors, brands seem desperate to hurl money at gaming teams, and turn pros into genuine stars.

“It can be glamorous,” says Baker. “Before an international football match in South Korea, a Korean eSports team was brought into the dressing room to motivate the footballers as they look up to these professional gamers. In the West, more mainstream companies are now looking to embrace these newly created celebrities.”

PG_parallax4

5 Tips from the Pros

Attitude is Key.

When you’re playing with pro players, put your best self for- ward. Try hard, communicate well, and show critical thinking. If you’re playing consistently with pro players in games, you’ll develop a reputation. Your best chance of being recognized is if they think highly of you.

Sacrifices must be made.

Being a pro player is more of a lifestyle than an occupation. You’ll have a practice schedule, sponsor obligations, and may even be required to move to live in a team house. Be prepared to give it your all if this is truly your desired profession.

Be prepared for a mental shift.

The best of the best will always rise to the top. Always look to how you can improve yourself to get better. You can’t control your teammates’ actions. The best of the best are always hyper-focused on how they can improve, not blaming others for their mistakes.

Learn from the best.

It’s very different to play the game as a release from responsibilities as opposed to it being your main responsibility. Lots of pro players can burn out because of this. If you want to be around for a while, make sure you understand that this is like working 60-80 hours per week.

PG_parallax5

Study those who are already at that level. Study the top players and analyze what they do that separates them from the rest. An understanding of this and how to incorporate it into your own play is essential.

Baker says that the key to finding stardom is dogged persistence – and choosing the right game. Dota 2, League of Legends and other MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) games are popular now, but Baker thinks racing games and fighting games are on the rise. “An up and coming one to get involved in could be Hearthstone, a newly released card game that is building a following fast, with over 20m downloads,” he says.

heartsome

Pro gamers themselves queue up to tell hopefuls that the position is not easy to attain – or hold onto. Teams such as Fariko Dragons pick their best in a merciless, gladiatorial style, with any group of gamers free to invite themselves to internal tournaments, and attempt to beat a Dragons team and thus gain admission. There are three levels of Fariko team: Yin, Yang, and Dragons. The hand-picked Dragons compete with other teams for money. The other two fight constantly for a place. For ex-pros, there are other options within the industry, such as commentating, or managing young hopefuls. But the time to make a mark is very, very limited. Many gamers ‘burn out’ by 25.

PG_parallax6

Evil Geniuses’ Dager, though, argues that the possibilities for players have exploded in the past couple of years.

”I definitely think gaming is a viable career now,” he says. “It’s an incredibly fast growing industry. Three to four years ago we were nowhere and now, you know, it’s legit. I mean, there are tonnes of gamers making bigger salaries than if they did four years of college. Of course there’s a little bit less job security because the industry’s so uncertain, but right now I don’t see any reason why the industry wouldn’t continue to grow and gamers wouldn’t be able to find careers – not only playing, but casting, managing…”

peoplethink

The top players in the world are still largely Asian. Competing against South Korean teams, in particular is daunting. Teams often live together, like Olympic sportsmen, and practice for up to 12 hours per day. Gamers are often discouraged from having relationships.

“People think it’s just a game,” says Dager. “They do not understand how much work myself and others like me put into it. They think my life is easy when in reality it’s actually stressful. On an average day, I usually game five to ten hours.”

Dager, 21, says that he doesn’t worry about burning out – as long as he is able to maintain his monkish focus on the game.
“I love to compete and unless I could find that same competition somewhere else I don’t see myself stopping. I don’t really believe in the age-clock. As long as I am still able to focus myself entirely on Dota and eliminate other distractions I could play Dota as long as I wanted to.”

final

 
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