Playing video games for a living is now a career aspiration for many individuals, whether it’s live streaming on Twitch, posting Let’s Play on YouTube, or joining a team to compete at the professional level. The prize pool money and sponsorships pro teams receive offer comfortable living for those who have managed to rise to the top of their game. This phenomenon has sprouted an entire industry that continues to gain momentum and even buy-in from established owners in the other sports franchises. E-sports-friendly arenas are being built around the world and competitions are televised on a global scale.
One of the biggest e-sports competitions in the world is League of Legends, in terms of earnings and viewership. The participants comprise an exclusive community of gamers who have spent untold hours honing their skills day after day. What kind of preparation and sacrifice is necessary to reach this level of success?
Not just fun and games
Master Tier is one of the highest standings one can reach in League of Legends, and a prerequisite for any inroads to professional play. Just achieving Master Tier means a gamer ranks in the top 1,000 players in a region, with North America, Korea, and Western Europe as the most prevalent. But then, just how many hours does someone need to commit to playing in order to attain the Master Tier in League of Legends? Reportedly, it can take a minimum of 6,000 hours to gain that designation. While Master Tier is a significant accomplishment, it’s just a stepping stone to the more prestigious Challenger Tier.
With so many hours put into the game in a relatively short time frame, League becomes more than just a job. It often overtakes a pro player’s life. Rankings are constantly shifting, so mistakes and losses can be disastrous. There’s always so much at stake in a League career. The burden on the player can be overwhelming. A seemingly endless supply of up and coming gamers waiting in the wings, coupled with the commitment made to a team, means pro players have to maintain a breakneck pace of practice and competition.
Professional League of Legend teams are joined at the hip, tending to monopolize the majority of a pro player’s waking hours. They typically eat, practice, and live together. With the bulk of their time dedicated to practice, players don’t have the luxury of going out to meet new people, so the most common sacrifice is one’s social life outside the inner sanctum of the gaming community. If school or a job are still part of a player’s routine, those activities may have to be prioritized along with practice, but socializing will always take a back seat. Because so many gamers begin when they are young and still in school, balancing practice with maintaining satisfactory grades can be daunting.
For a pro player, focusing on health can be difficult. Eating and sleeping may be manageable, but making time for a fraction of exercise is often a challenge with such a sedentary lifestyle. Many pro teams have begun to incorporate some conditioning into their programs to improve the gameplay and overall fitness of their players. These measures can go a long way to extend the lifespan of what’s admittedly a limited career window for gamers, relative to more traditional jobs.
To be certain, there are pros and cons with any career path, and it’s up to the individual that’s fortunate enough to have achieved his or her dream job to evaluate whether or not the sacrifices are worth the rewards. In the overall scheme of things, professional gaming is the new kid on the block, so there are still kinks to work out. Ultimately, it’s important to understand that professional gaming is an industry that’s growing exponentially, and their players are just as devoted as any traditional sports athlete.
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