We’re seeing a groundbreaking evolution happening in e-Sports as pro players become recognized as professional athletes who are awarded visas and salaries. However, the journey for them has not been easy and challenges are ever present. What does it take to become a pro gamer? Is a viable e-Sports career possible? Let’s meet three amazing pro competitors who were kind enough to lend their thoughts on the subject.
Meet Eric Abramian
Eric played the character Ararat in the guild Blood Legion in World of Warcraft. His guild competes against other guilds in the raiding scene, pushing to finish the presented content as fast as possible. They have a roster of over thirty members with a team of twenty-five actually competing. Teamwork is emphasized a lot in this type of competition and being able to keep everyone on the same page is essential.
Eric led the guild through most of his time there. He stopped participating in the raiding scene about one year ago. Blood Legion is currently ranked #2 in the world and constantly pushing to be #1 and is currently sponsored by Razer. Eric appears with Blood Legion in the movie Race to World First (http://www.racetoworldfirst.com).
I asked Eric to describe the opportunities and obstacles players face when seeking viable careers as e-Sports competitors:
“The issue with e-Sports currently is that it isn’t completely mainstream yet. If you wish to have a career in it, then it takes a lot of sacrifice and risk. Your friends and family would be very weary of your involvement in it and would believe you are wasting your time. I have experienced this first hand. The biggest difference between when I was heavily involved in competitive gaming and now is that there are a lot more opportunities for players. I am especially impressed with how Riot Games has created their own professional league in which teams can qualify to join, and at that point they are essentially given a salary from Riot Games to exclusively play League of Legends, and compete at various events held throughout the year.
“I currently work for Red Bull and they are building a lot of infrastructure to host all their tournaments in house. They have a great team that I have personally met and I have assisted in configuring their gaming network for the company. Red Bull is known for a lot of non-traditional sports and e-Sports is something they take very seriously. I am looking forward to the future of e-Sports and watching it grow.”
What does it take to become a pro gamer?
“To be a pro gamer you have to practice a lot. First you have to develop the skills necessary. You have to train and get better. You must be able to identify mistakes and learn from them. I know League of Legends teams have managers or coaches who direct practices and provide what the players need to play. From computers to housing to food, they cover it.
“Just like any other sport it takes lots of time and dedication. You have to be willing to stare adversity in the face and overcome it. You also need to work with other players with equal skill or you won’t get any better. Iron sharpens iron is a motto in the world of MMA and it applies to e-Sports as well. The best only get better by competing against the best.”
How is the e-Sports evolution impacting the video game industry at large?
“From the explosive growth of League of Legends, twitch.tv and Starcraft II worldwide, you can see that people love to watch high level gameplay and compete for championships. Even in the simple game of Hearthstone by Blizzard Entertainment, people love to watch it on streams, live events or on YouTube. Players are speaking so loudly about it that they are developing a spectator mode built into the game.
“In addition, if any game developers wish to have their game be part of e-Sports then they have to focus on balance and the skill level required. If you look at Starcraft you can see that it has a very high skill cap and the game is constantly balanced even after release.
“People hold games to a higher standard if it is to be a part of e-Sports. It will in the end be better for players, since they will have all the best games available to them as well as the ability to see the best in the world compete against each other on grand stages.”
I also got to sit down with John Liao
John “Nuvas” Liao played for Team EG (Evil Geniuses) in World of Warcraft. His team was EG’s first WoW team and the entire roster of nine players was enlisted. Outside of EG, they are also known as the HUKs to friends and supporters.
During John’s time with EG, his team won notable achievements such as placing 1st in the Blizzard North American Regional and 2nd for Blizzcon’s World Tournament (first season). In addition, EG flew them to several locations around the U.S, France, and Sweden where they often placed 3rd – 5th.
Here are John’s thoughts on e-Sports and becoming a pro gamer:
“The amount of obstacles to overcome are staggering and the opportunities are minuscule. It’s hard to keep up with the workload required of a pro gamer, especially if you plan to make a living off of it. You need to stay on top of your game and stay motivated. But not only that, your entire team needs to be and remain in the same mindset. The team and I would easily put in eighty hours a week practicing while going to college. Needless to say, we didn’t have much of a life outside of school and WoW.
“Speaking of the team, the hardest part of getting into the pro gaming scene is finding that group of gamers that you get along well with and have the talent it takes to reach the top. That’s difficult and can take months to years to accomplish. In addition to all of that, you’ll also need to stream. This is where you can make your own opportunities. And that’s what really ties e-Sports and the video game industry together. Streaming is huge and if anyone want’s to seriously consider being a pro, start streaming. Game companies already make heavy use of streamers and it is only going to grow more and more popular. It’s going to be exciting to see what the future holds for e-Sports.”
I also talked with Jesse Ryan
Jesse “Koorban” Ryan played for Evil Geniuses and accomplished these, among other, notable titles:
1st in First Ever World of Warcraft 5 vs 5 Arena US Regional Championships
3rd in First Ever World of Warcraft 5 vs 5 Arena World Championships
3rd in WSVG Toronto 2007 3 vs 3 World of Warcraft Arena Championship
5th in WSVG Event 3 vs 3 World of Warcraft Arena Tournament
Invited to Dreamhack WoW Arena Competition in 2007
Jesse’s thoughts on e-Sports and becoming a pro gamer:
“E-sports is something that brings a long a lot of opportunities but also takes a lot of commitment. Our success was short lived due to just that. We flourished as a team when we all had the most time to commit. As time passed it was much more difficult to get everyone together to play as much as we needed to in order to keep up with the challenges of the changing aspect of the game, as well as the new competitors getting involved. For WoW, we were the very first team ever signed to a sponsorship from Flow Gaming, but soon joined on board with Team EG due to their vast experience in the gaming scene. This opened up more chances to travel and even make some money from the game I’ve loved playing for so long.
“If it wasn’t for e-Sports I would have never been able to travel across the globe. The biggest obstacle for me was real life. I was just finishing up college and trying to get myself settled into a job. During school I had all the time in the world to play but once that was done I had to switch up focuses and my fellow teammates were in a similar position. Getting everyone together became harder and harder and we just eventually decided to stop all together. Had the e-Sports scene been introduced to WoW just a few years earlier I believe we would’ve had some more time to cement our legacy in the game. I imagine for current gamers job security is a major concern if you’re looking to e-Sports as a career. Not only is it important that there is an interest in your game but you must also be able to be successful at it. Financial stability is important in anything a person does.
“Becoming a pro gamer is a way of life. The amount of time you put in basically makes it like a job. Between preparation, travel, and planning there is a lot of commitment there. When 5 vs 5 arenas first came out it was only backed by Blizzard so there was a very small monetary foundation there. It was not something we could rely on financially. Sure, there were a couple of tournaments, but it took a while for the foundation to build up and other third party events to happen. Even with those they were not frequent enough and there was no compensation from our sponsor to practice so that we could do that full time and forgo an every day job.
“New games, especially FPS, are designed with competition in mind. With online streaming sites such as Twitch being very popular now, it’s easier than it ever was to get exposed. I wish when we were playing that that was something we had! If it was around, I was unaware of it, but it would have helped greatly for our exposure and getting our name out there. New games are tweaked and balanced so that competitive play is fair and entertaining and easy for spectators to follow. Just look at the spectator system for Dota 2 or Counter Strike as an example.
“In summation my two years in the pro gaming scene was a great experience. It allowed me to meet people who I may never have seen outside of digital pixels. I was able to travel many places I would have never dreamed of visiting otherwise. For a short while we were the absolute best in 5 vs 5 for arenas in WoW. During Season one we had the highest rated team in the world for quite some time. We were also the first team to ever be sponsored for WoW. All these things didn’t come free though. We had to commit countless hours to accomplish what we wanted to do.”
Huge thanks to Eric, John, and Jesse for sharing their thoughts. Thankfully, the discussion doesn’t end here! Johnathan “Fatal1ty” Wendel, Scott “SirScoots” Smith, and Margaret Krohn (SOE), will be speaking alongside Eric, John, and me for a one of a kind e-Sports panel at Comic Con International’s WonderCon. Check out the details below. Hope to see you there!
Friday April 18th
5:00 – 6:00 E-Sports – How to Become a Pro Competitor
We’re seeing a groundbreaking evolution happening in e-Sports as pro players become recognized as professional athletes who are awarded visas and salaries. However, the journey for them has not been easy. Join Genese Davis (The Holder’s Dominion & MMORPG.com,) Johnathan Wendel (Fatal1ty,) Scott “SirScoots” Smith (MLG, Evil Geniuses,) Eric Abramian (Blood Legion, Team Razer) Margaret Krohn (Sony Online Entertainment,) and John Liao (Evil Geniuses) as they discuss the opportunities and obstacles players face when seeking viable careers as e-Sports competitors. This high-powered panel will divulge exactly what it takes to become a pro gamer and how the e-Sports evolution is impacting the video game industry at large.