Do You Have What it Takes to Become an E-Sports Pro?

Source: Riot Games

Source: Riot Games

If you pay attention to the wide world of video games, there’s a good chance you’ve been hearing a lot about e-sports lately. That’s because it’s a fast-growing industry that produces mountains of news stories regularly. Whether it’s schools giving scholarships for competitive gaming or the record-breaking $11.4 million prize pool for this year’s International Dota 2 tournament, there’s a lot going on in the world of e-sports.

It’s getting so big that ESPN covered this year’s Heroes of the Storm tournament. It’s getting so legitimate and producing so much money that the billionaire investor Mark Cuban recently put $7 million toward a new e-sports betting website.

Venture Beat says, “According to ESPN, 27 million people tuned in to watch the 2014 finals of the League of Legends World Championship. That is more than watched the final game of the World Series (23.5 million) or the NBA Finals (18 million).”

Clearly, e-sports are a big deal and they’re growing fast. If you love gaming and want to compete at the professional level, you’re going to have to put a lot of work into it.

The first thing you’ll need to do is pick your game. It should be one that’s popular in tournament-level play, like Dota 2, League of Legends, Street Fighter IVCounter-Strike, Call of Duty, or StarCraft II.

Once you know what game you want to play, you can begin training. If you watch gaming tournaments, it quickly becomes clear that playing a game casually and playing it professionally are two very different things. Pro players are deeply familiar with the ins and outs of the game. For instance, pro fighting game players know exactly how long each of their character’s moves takes to perform. Pro strategy game players know the basic moves so well they’ve committed them to muscle memory.

Source: Activision

Source: Activision

How do you become that good? First you have to study. Read everything you can about honing your abilities in your chosen game. Watch videos and streams of pro players to see how they play. Study their moves to get into their head. Try to figure out what they’re thinking as they play. Try to understand why do they make the choices they make.

Next, practice. Developing your gaming skills is like any other skill: To be really good, you have to spend lots of time doing it. Most pro gamers stick to a regimented practice schedule that takes up most of their day. For instance, pro Dota 2 player Peter Dager practices with his team for four hours or more just about every day. After that, according to an article in The New York Times, he spends several hours streaming more matches. Is it demanding? Absolutely.

“I, and many players like me, sacrificed everything,” said Mr. Dager, who is almost a senior in college but is not attending school now. “We gave up on sports and friends and school just so we can play more.”

Mr. Dager isn’t alone. From a profile of another pro gamer in The New Yorker:

[T]op-level StarCraft requires as many as three hundred actions per minute, or A.P.M.; an élite practitioner’s left hand, as it manipulates the keyboard, can appear almost to be playing Chopin. The right hand, meanwhile, darts and clicks with a mouse, contrapuntally, so frantic that carpal-tunnel syndrome and tendinitis are common side effects.

Clearly, pro gaming isn’t for everyone. If you don’t have the drive to develop your gaming chops to the point at which you can compete at the professional level (and few people do), you might be interested in a different job in the e-sports industry. To get a look at available job opportunities, esportscareer.org is a great place to start.

One thing’s for certain: With all the money pouring into professional video gaming right now, there’s never been a better time to get in the game.