Salary Potential: Extremely High, with a very high variance in earnings

Skills Required:

* Extremely High (top 1%) Skill in Selected Game
* Communication
* Critical Thinking
* Time Management
* Effective Self-Evaluation Skills

Summary: The competitive gamer is the player who performs consistently at the top level of play in his or her chosen game, has an expert understanding of the game and the game’s mechanics and performs well under pressure, potentially being watched by millions of people during their games. This doesn’t differ much from other professional sports. The barrier to entry is extremely high, and the path to opportunity can be difficult to walk on. It can be hard to determine exactly where you can go next, and how to really break into the competitive scene at a pro level for the game of your choice. Identifying weaknesses and actively working on them is extremely important for this individual. Having a positive but realistic perspective on their own abilities and the abilities of their opponents is also key. Without evolving your own play, you will be unable to maintain a consistent performance at the top level.

Advantages:

* Highest earning potential
* Can snowball into other opportunities (Will expand on this later)
* Fame/Profile
* Competition is exciting

Disadvantages:

* Extremely time consuming
* Extremely Difficult
* Fame/Profile
* Stressful
* Large variance in the earnings. Depending on performance, prize pools and team performance you may not earn enough to continue this route.
* Extremely high skill requirements

IS IT FOR YOU?

This route very simply is not for everyone. You need to have a natural ability to be able to compete realistically against the best players in the world. Strategies can be learned, but reaction speed, critical thinking, and other mechanical ability plateaus at a certain point. Without changing the mechanisms – a person can only aim or move their mouse so fast. They can train their mechanics and usually can improve upon their original numbers, but they will plateau eventually. As training methods, health, attitude or other environment factors improve, the absolute top will improve. For an example – look at the difference in the top 25 men in the 100m (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/100_metres#All-time_top_25_men). They are less than half a second difference between the fastest ever and the slowest of the 25 listed (by no means is any of this slow – but you see where I’m going with this). This data is spread out over more than 20 years. I should clarify – you don’t need a natural ability at “moving a mouse quickly” or even intelligence. You need a persevering attitude and the ability to pick yourself up even when you are failing, or when your friends and family are telling you that you won’t make it.

So – “I have the ability!”, you say? Well that’s awesome! I’m happy to hear that! Now all you need to do is figure out the avenue to use to become a professional gamer. Don’t worry, I’ll help you out as much as I can. Without getting specific to the game, the strategies are very similar.

STRATEGIES TO MAKE IT AS A COMPETITIVE GAMER

According to Malcom Gladwell, author of Outliers: The Story of Success it takes 10,000 hours of dedicated and effective practice to become an expert at something. This book was a great read and I would highly recommend it. He echoes my sentiments above, in that a success story can and is often achieved by simple dedication to ones craft.

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You can use this as an excuse to play all of the time. Don’t ignore important responsibilities, of course! But, when you are in the correct mindset and are ready to improve – play, play, play! If you can’t arrange a scrim or ideal scenario that is similar to what you’ll be doing in competitive play, focus on a different area for practicing. IE practicing your aim for an FPS player or practicing your mouse mechanics for an LoL or DOTA player. There are many other guides on the internet for specifics in this category that will be relevant to your specific game. If interest is garnered in these areas I will compile the generally accepted methods of practice in the most popular games in eSports right now.

This is just about as important as playing all of the time. If it isn’t meaningful, what is it accomplishing? Oh – “It’s fun” you say? “It’s a game”? Well no, it’s not quite just a game to you is it? This is a craft. Sure, you should enjoy yourself. In fact, if you aren’t enjoying yourself while doing this I would recommend that you stop. You are either playing the wrong game, or competitive gaming isn’t for you.

Making it meaningful means to take the knowledge that you have and apply it to the game. When the game is over, spend some time to reflect on it. Think about the bad decisions you made. Think about the good decisions, too, but we really only want to sprinkle those in. We don’t want to get cocky, now do we? What did you do wrong? How could you improve it moving forward? When you peaked that corner and got killed instantly – was that necessary? Did you need to check that corner? Was your death meaningful to the team, that perhaps allowed them to gain insight or information which lead to winning that round/match? No – probably not. You probably didn’t need to peak the corner. Just like you probably didn’t need to face check the brush when you had that gut feeling the enemy jungler was around. I know I came dangerously close to naming specific games – but the concept applies to all competitive endeavors. Practice, Practice, Practice! But more importantly – analyze the practice and allow it to empower your next game. Take those thoughts and turn them into actions in your next match.

You need to surround yourself with other players that are mature enough to understand when they have done something wrong. They need to be able to identify their weaknesses and be able to work through things with you. In fact, I would recommend that you share this article with potential friends or people you would be interested in playing with on a more serious or competitive level. This goes both ways – consider them your partners. Keep it friendly and everything, but remember your goal. Your goal is to play games competitively – not to make friends. If it’s not working out – don’t play with them anymore. I am not saying that you should cut them from your group if they aren’t quite as good as you. Just make sure their interests align with yours and you guys can play a similar amount of time and during similar time frames. Be willing to help them get up to your level – you will likely find that teaching others about mechanics will help breed a better understanding of the game for yourself.

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After matches – discuss them with your partner/group. Give everyone a chance to give their perspective on what went right and what went wrong. Do your best to allow completely honest and open communication. If things go well here – move on to the next logical step.

It is extremely unlikely that you are going to become a complete expert in a game and get head hunted up by the top teams immediately. You need to prove yourself. You may be good – you may even be amazing – but you are still a nobody. Start this process with the players you started practicing with. You need to be easy to work with, flexible, etc. Having said that, you also need to ensure you keep your eyes on the prize.

The goals of everyone on the team need to be the same. If you are truly going to work towards going pro – you all need to be dedicated to becoming the best players in the world. Anything better than the absolute best is opportunity for improvement. You will have significant issues if 3 of 5 members are truly trying to go pro, while 2 of the members are just really good players having fun.

Want to be a professional? Act like one. Don’t rage at people in public matches. Pretend that everyone is watching you at all times. When you are interacting with people, imagine yourself doing so at a press conference. Pretend everyone can see everything you are doing and hear everything you say. Say “GG” at the end of a match, even if it wasn’t one. You don’t have to go out of your way to be the nicest person in the world – but you DO need to stop yourself from being a complete jerk to people. You will get frustrated. You will have urges to yell at people that aren’t performing or people that you are blaming for your mistakes.

Like every other person on the planet, your body and mind need rest. Practicing and analyzing all day can be stressful. Find ways to unwind. Don’t stay up for 24 hours practicing “just to get that extra chunk of time in”. It’s not worth it. Remember my point above? The practice needs to be meaningful – it can’t be meaningful when your brain isn’t operating properly and your short term memory is impacted due to lack of sleep. This is especially true if you are finding yourself extremely frustrated. This is usually an indication that you aren’t in the right state of mind, or you’re too stressed.

While you need to identify your shortcomings and work on them, it’s important to remember that you are not your enemy. You should play devil’s advocate with yourself – but you need to be able to recognize when you’ve done something great.

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Set goals and milestones for yourself. For example, if the game you were focusing on was League of Legends and your milestone was to get to Gold V, give yourself a pat on the back and reward yourself with some kind of treat. I’ll leave that part up to you – but as you progress you should be rewarding yourself. Even better, put together a motivational system for your team. Have a weekly or biweekly talk about your milestones, what you’ve done to move towards them as an individual, or identify ways the team can help you achieve those milestones. If someone has hit their goal – as a team you guys should be really happy for them. Also ensure you have team goals. A lot of teams have these kinds of discussions or meetings – things don’t tend to just “fall into place”. There is planning, communication, camaraderie and many other factors that assist the great teams in becoming great.

Most games that are team based have various roles that need to be filled. Whether you are a strategist, a sniper, a marksman in LoL or carry in DOTA, it’s important for the roles to mesh well for the team and for everyone to understand what they need to be doing at a given time. A lot of this is dependant on the specific game you are playing – but the conversation needs to happen. There should also be an in-game shot caller. This person should be very experienced, able to think under pressure, and also able to take negative feedback. Don’t go too hard on them though – keep in mind they are under a lot of pressure to make calls in the middle of the game. These can often be the wrong calls. You need to discuss them after the fact.

I sincerely hope you are successful and you become a famous pro gaming player! Remember that you came from the bottom. Remember that you are a normal person who worked really hard. Remember that your lifestyle is funded via sponsorships and other marketing opportunities. These opportunities only exist because of the fans. Give back to them, every opportunity. Without them, you would just be another person spending their days and nights trying to be the best at a video game. You have a responsibility to maintain a certain public image. You represent your team, your organization, and your sponsors at all times. It can be hard – be careful of what you say and do when you think no body is watching. I’ve seen too many people with amazing potential squashed by a bad public image.

Remember – this is just a game! Oh wait – I said it’s not just a game earlier, didn’t I? Well I was only half serious back then… You need to remember why you wanted to become a pro competitive gamer in the first place. You need to understand that the journey to that goal is an adventure. Losing, tough times, bad plays, and arguments all play a part in building that future.