7/04/2014

Get paid thanks to games: A Pro Gamer

I grew up in a relatively small town in Poland, in the 80's and 90's (they were pretty much like 70's and 80's in the US). Games were just something that we played and some companies in the far away USA and Japan were making. Sure, there was maybe one or two games developed in Poland, but it was still in a city far, far away. Careers I could think of were either being a writer with no guarantee of any real income or a lawyer, an economist or some other suit to be able to support my family.

It took me a while to realize that hundreds of hours I have spent on games can literally pay off. The passion for gaming, the titles I could reference, the conclusion I was able to draw from what I've seen in games landed me a job in the industry and are now paying my bills.


With this short introduction I welcome you to the third and the final part of my "stop wasting your time with games" games for education rant. In previous parts I've described how games can enrich our lives and teach us skills useful in real life. This time, I am going to get to the ultimate argument how games can be the very opposite of a waste of time - how they can turn into a career. Unlike in the first two parts, now I will be harsh. Skills can be learned pretty easily and widely applied to many situations. Career connected with games is far from a piece of cake though. Let's get started with...

Since a career in the gaming industry is an extremely broad topic, part three of the "stop wasting your time with games" gets to become 4 separate articles. Today it'll be about pro gaming. Next articles will touch game blogging and vlogging, game journalism and finally a broad description of game development career. Without further ado...

A professional gamer
Who doesn't dream about getting paid for just playing games? Lately, I have even seen news materials about "kids who earn lots of money for playing in tournaments". They vaguely mentioned the hard work required, they never really showed the scale of competition, they focused on hundreds of thousands of dollars these gamers earn. So... How do you become a pro gamer?

Above everything else, you have to find a game you are extremely good at. By extremely, I mean beating all your friends 100 to 0 in five minutes while blindfolded and hanging upside down. If anyone you know in real life can give you any kind of challenge, you are not good enough. You have to compete with the whole world. Struggling on the level of your neighborhood is just not gonna cut it.


What's more, the game of your choice needs to have a league. And games with worthwhile leagues are the biggest, most popular multiplayer titles: Starcraft 2, League of Legends, Counter Strike, FIFA, DOTA 2. Farmville, WoW and Minecraft might be the most popular games on the globe, but no matter how great you are, you won’t go pro there.

Pro gamers spend at least 8 to 10 hours a day on one and the same game over and over for... well, years. Top players are already adults. They started early, played since they can remember, but... they did finish schools. Being a pro gamer doesn't mean flushing your education down the toilet. It's a job like any other - sometimes monotonous and frustrating. It's important to invest in hardware as well. Good gaming PC with a gaming mouse and keyboard fit for professionals is needed. Obviously, good, communicative knowledge of English is a must as well. You also have to control your language and actions. No good team will invite a raging hater that risks being banned in every single match.


Pro gaming is a career in which your only kind of promotion is to get higher in rankings. That's pretty much the only ladder you are going to climb. Luckily, with e-sport becoming more and more popular, there are many options for the pro gamers that know when to quit. There are pro gamers like Fatal1ty, who design or at least promote lines of gaming hardware. There are pro gamers who get hired by gaming companies as representatives. Still, you have to be aware that the game you are so good at sooner or later will die. Some other game will take its place. Some other game you might be good at, but never good enough to go pro again.

While preparing for this job you have to focus on one specific game (or - only sometimes - on one type of a game). Research it, get in deep. Really deep. There will most probably be no time for any other games. Once you find a game you might go pro with, you will miss a lot of other titles over the course of a few years. If you get high enough in the leagues, if you manage to win some tournaments (not regional ones - we're talking nationals), make more friends than enemies, you might eventually get invited to go pro. Once you agree, you will start getting paid for exactly the same thing you've been doing for the past years. Playing the same game over and over for many hours every day.

And lastly, when choosing this path you have to always remember it's like playing in a band. Most of them bands never get out of their garage, very little become a one-hit wonders and pretty much one in a million really sells albums and tickets.


Summing up, you will need:
- an early start - trying to go pro when you're 40 and have never used a computer might be tricky;
- extreme talent and knowledge in a game you want to go pro in;
- tons of determination and time spent on the the game;
- great communication skills and (if you are a foreigner) good knowledge of English language;
- decent gaming hardware to start with before you get better stuff from sponsors;
- lots of tolerance and support from your family and friends, be it parents or life partners, as rarely anyone will take your career choice seriously.



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