By: Tristen Zahreddine
The arena seats are filled with thousands of fans and another several hundred thousand are glued to their TV sets and smartphones.
The competitors approach their seats in front of a digital screen. Their nerves appear frayed. Their hands are wet with sweat.
They are two of the world’s best, and they await the countdown:
“Three … Two … One …Fight!”
It’s July 16, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada and The Evolution Championship series is being held. Evo is the biggest eSports fighting game tournament of the year, and many competitors from different fighting games come together to test their skills in their specific game of choice for the chance to win tens of thousands of dollars.
Many competitors come from around the world and pay entry fees to compete in fighting games such as Super Smash Bros. Melee., Street Fighter V and Tekken 7. At Evo there was over 1,000 signups for both Tekken and Super Smash Bros. Melee. And Street Fighter amassed 2,622 signups.
With eSports becoming a more popular medium of entertainment and with many people joining and participating in tournaments around the world to try and become the best, one question is always brought up: Is it a viable career path?
Millions play different genres of multiplayer video games completely, of course, but some compete in an attempt to earn sponsorships and money to be able to continue to follow their passion.
Some of the top players have quit their jobs and dropped out of school to compete in their game of choice.
The No.1 player in the world at the fighting game Super Smash Bros. Melee, Juan “Hungrybox” DeBiedma, who is sponsored by famous eSports organization Team Liquid, quit his job as a process engineer to pursue his dream career in 2016.
Jay “Sinatraa” Won dropped out of high school to pursue his career and became a top Overwatch player, signing a $150,000 contract with popular eSports team NRG and also players for the Overwatch League team, The San Francisco Shock.
These are examples of a couple people who have found a viable career path for the foreseeable future, but success doesn’t come easy.
“If you’re not at the top it’s tough to make it a career path because to be a Top 10 or Top 20 player you have to sacrifice a lot,” said Mario Vidal, a Super Smash Bros. Melee player in Santa Clarita, “Having to spending your own money on flights and hotels for tournaments outside of the state or area you live in because you’re not sponsored is very expensive, and you hope to win a little money just to be able to afford the flight and hotel for the next out-of-state tournament.”
Most of the top players of every game are usually sponsored by eSports organizations, such as Team Liquid, NRG, Luminosity Gaming, Fnatic, Echo Fox, Cloud 9, and Team SoloMid all of which pay for flights and hotels.
However, some games like Super Smash Bros. Melee aren’t as big as other games like Overwatch, League of Legends, Counter-Strike, and Street Fighter. Where the biggest Melee tournament had 2,372 entrants and a pot of $23,720, at the same tournament, Street fighter V had 5,107 entrants and a $101,070 pot size.
While those are fighting games, the pot sizes for other types of games can be bigger.
At last year’s Dota 2 tournament, The International 2017, Team Liquid took home first place and won $10.8 million and second place team Newbee took home $4 million.
While prize pots are different and fluctuate depending on the game the grind to become the best team or single player is always the same.
In Newzoo’s annual report, their marketing researcher is predicting the eSports industry revenue to reach $908 million in 2018, a 38% increase from 2017.
“Atleast as far as the FGC (Fighting Game Community) goes I’m sure it’s due to the passion, the love, the hype moments and salty moments, also the possibility of matching going the way you never thought they would,” said amateur Tekken player Nigel “IronFistHermit” when asked about why eSports continues to grow.
This increase is due to many factors, but with the increase comes more competitors getting into their games of choice and competing.
Practicing and training yourself to be the best is difficult, whether it is having to practice the same match up for hours, or practicing the same move or combo just to make sure it’s perfect can take a toll on the player.
People can only sit and stare at a screen and have their hands constantly putting in the same controller inputs for so long.
Also, just because someone is a good player doesn’t always mean that they are projected to beat.
There are always upsets in the sports world and in eSports there is no difference, Players have bad games and have those days where things don’t go their way. They could make controller input mistakes or just not get the proper nutrition during the day or enough sleep the night before.
There is always competition to chase after and people chasing after the competition in front of them.
Another aspect of the grind is not relying on pure physical skill alone, a player can have the fastest controller inputs, but if that player isn’t mentally at the top of their game they could get beat handily, knowing what a player is going to do next and how they’re going to do it is what takes a player over the top.
A lot of amateur players take day jobs to be able to attend the big tournaments outside their area.
These same amateurs have and participate in local tournaments to hone their skills and use them as a gauge to determine if they are ready for bigger tournaments.
In Santa Clarita, there is a weekly Super Smash Bros. tournament at Tapped Out Gaming, hosted by store Owner Mike Luna, where every Tuesday night many players gather and test their skills and continue to improve on their existing skills.
As an amateur player it is not viable to make competing in video games a day job, however when these amateurs raise in the rank is when they can start to think about quitting their jobs and devote their time to practicing and becoming the best.
“I believe that anyone who puts in the time has the capability of becoming a top player,” said Nigel.
Nigel thinks that any amateur who practices enough has the chance to be a top player and earn a career out of it.
“Tournaments are definitely enough because if you consistently win or place high you’ll get picked up by an eSports team, and along with that eSports team comes sponsorships.”
Just in like other sports everyone starts somewhere and the ones who make it are the ones who put in the most effort and devote the most time to making themselves better.
“Sponsorships are big in eSports, with major companies such as Red Bull, Mountain Dew, T-Mobile, Audi and Coca Cola sponsoring eSports players and combining the sponsorship money with their tournament winnings, a career is eSports is quite viable. With eSports continuing to improve and grow it can only go up from here,” said local eSports player Daniel Nunez.
A career in eSports can be a viable one, as the top professionals already have made $480,000 this year alone. It is just up to the amateur players to put the time in and practice to try and catch up to the top players. As for the top players it is up to them to keep practicing and not get complacent with their play.
With eSports’ meteoric rise in popularity, the rising numbers of sponsors, leagues being formed and players entering eSports show no signs of slowing down.