It sounds like the perfect job – all you have to do all day is play video games, get better by playing even more, win championships, and pull an income of US$1.5m a year plus endorsements and royalties. Your mother already tells you you spend too much time on your games already anyway, so might as well make the most of it, right?
Well, the reality isn’t quite so rosy. There’s a mammoth amount of work involved, which we found out after speaking briefly to Jonatan ‘Devilwalk’ Lundberg and Patrik ‘cArn’ Sättermon when they were in town for the MSI Beat IT Pro-Gamer’s Gathering held at E2Max @ Cine recently. Members of world-renowned eSports team Fnatic that holds several world championships in a variety of games, they were the best people to give us some insights on becoming successful professional eSports players.
You’ve got to put in the hours
Yes, you enjoy gaming for extended periods of time, and there are times you wished you never had to stop. But you’ll be singing a different tune once it becomes a daily grind that requires at least an hour of strategy discussions with professional coaches and managers, followed by 8–10 hours of practice including on weekends.
You have the Koreans and Chinese to thank for that, because that’s how they do it, forcing the rest of the industry into the same routine just to keep up and remain competitive. However, there’s no denying practice really does make perfect, so you’ll have to maintain the determination and dedication needed to become the best and put in the requisite amount of work.
Hard work > talent
Even if you’re a natural prodigy blessed with l33t headshot skills and lightning-quick reflexes, always work on improving your skills. Both hard work and talent are necessary to succeed, but in a straight competition between a gifted individual and a workhorse who spends more time honing his or her craft, the latter will always win. Talent is just a head start – working hard is the only way to truly excel.
You’ve got to be marketable
Sponsorships make up about 80 to 90% of gamers’ incomes, and they’re not going to spend money on just about anyone. As a pro gamer, the best way to ensure visibility and fame to justify that corporate cash would be to keep winning. Beating prominent opponents, getting highlight reel wins, advancing further in tournaments, and hopefully winning championships will all serve to raise your profile, so if you’re truly good, the cash will definitely flow.
Have the right mindset
Local gamers are at a disadvantage because of society’s perceptions of professional athletes in general, not just eSports, so you’ll really have to stick to your guns if this is what you want to do. Your parents are more likely to tell you to study hard than to become someone who wins in DOTA for a living. Surround yourself with positive people who’ll encourage you, and try not to let the naysayers get to you. Once all your efforts pay off, it’ll be all the more worth celebrating. Just ask local stalwarts Eugene Tay and Prasad Paramajothi, who will tell you it’s all been worth it.
Have a backup plan
As with all professional sports, it’s a gamble to try and make it a career. You might just find yourself putting in all that work to find you can’t make the cut. Your productive years are also limited to between 18 to 28 as well, so if you’re going to go down this route, it’d better be worth it. Only a small proportion of gamers who turn pro will make money, with some making just $800 a month. Hence, always have a backup plan, in case your dreams don’t work out or you find your playing days numbered due to age.