7 Harsh Truths About Professional Gamers
Getting paid to play video games sound like the most undemanding and comfortable job in the world. If you’re a video game enthusiast, you must have fantasized about quitting your 9 to 5 job and live the dream life and become a professional Esports gamer. However, there’s a lot more to making a living from gaming than what meets the eye.
The lifestyle of professional gamers indeed seems appealing, but that’s until you know what precisely that entails – a minimum of 12 hours a day dedicated to playing a single game, with no guarantee of you making money from it, parents won’t encourage what you do, and fans won’t understand when you fail.
Today, more than ever, online gaming has become a cornerstone in the lives of many people all over the world. And while games are usually a leisure activity and entertainment, they’re also playing critical roles in revenue generation and are sustaining entire leagues and multimillion-dollar professional competitions.
As such, there lies a vast difference between a casual gamer and a professional gamer. And the life of a professional e-athlete is not cushy by any stretch of the imagination; it’s instead downright gruelling. Lack of sleep, drug abuse, sexual harassment — a lot of burden and mess come with becoming a professional gamer, and here, we list a few.
Video games have toxic online environments
The gaming community has a very problematic characteristic – its toxicity and abusive nature. Toxicity in video games includes impolite behaviour where trash talk, racial slurs, homophobia, and sexism make up a major portion of communication.
Many online gamers tend to be argumentative and loud; they love to accuse skilled players of hacking and unethical practices, and abusive gamers ruin the experience for others. Unfortunately, some of the best games in the world seem to foster this type of attitude more than others, especially those games that are free to play, competitive and require teamwork.
The League of Legends band is widely considered one of the most toxic game communities of all time. Experienced skilled players tend to bully and abuse new gamers, regardless of whether they are in the same team. Furthermore, gamers are also often found sabotaging their teammates and not supporting them during crucial moments.
For female gamers who compete in Esports, basic respect and civility on the playing ground — the right to play online games without being harassed and bullied shouldn’t be too much to expect. But this is hardly a given!
Women feel marginalized within the gaming community and are regularly subjected to nasty comments about their ability or appearance. While most of it comes from fans for elite gamers, opponents and teammates are sometimes just as challenging. At the lower gaming levels, women are frequently bombarded by hyper-masculinity in a space where almost everyone is anonymous.
The industry has been fighting harassment and toxic behaviour since the Gamergate scandal of 2014, but obnoxious gamers are a hard group to quell. Leading games should focus on building a dignified and respected community rather than creating a safer space for whose enjoyment comes from verbally shunting others.
Gamers struggle with public perceptions
Gamers – just the mere mention of the word seems to flash images of overweight, acne-ridden males, living in a dark room, surviving on a diet of burgers and energy drinks. They are perceived by most as introverted cave dwellers who have always dressed in their sweat laden t-Shirts, chuckling at the latest internet meme that would only ever make sense to other gamers.
Video games and gamers have had a troubled relationship with mainstream society since they came to prominence almost three decades ago. For many people, making a living as a professional gamer is still a relatively new concept. From being categorised as a pastime of kids or reclusive to being held directly responsible for violence and mass murder, understanding the gaming industry’s cultural relevance has never been straightforward.
The global video game market size was valued at USD 1 billion in 2019. Recent studies proved that training to become a professional gamer could be just as physically demanding as any other professional sport, and professional ‘League of Legends’ players are granted the same travel visa as other sports athletes.
But even then, many have a harder time accepting that people playing video games, computer games, or online games could ever be admired, let alone paid or watched, to the same level as that of sports athletes. And this public perception of games can wear gaming staff down, both players and developers.
Besides violence, the gaming community is subjected to various stereotypes including gamers don’t know how to socialise, online games effect gamers in a negative way and they’re a waste of time, or that game developers are lazy or only motivated by money.
The tide is however changing and society is slowly evolving to understand that even if you don’t wear a suit to an office every day, you can still be a respectable adult. With schools for e-sports popping up, competitions worth billions of dollars getting millions of viewers and even professional gamers getting working visas, being a pro gamer is becoming more accepted by the day.
There’s, however, still a long way to go for the whole world to take gaming and gamers wholeheartedly.
Lack of job security and stability
The lack of job security, stability and longevity has been a known issue in the gaming industry for almost as long as it has existed. Many players struggle with the idea that they have no job security.
Looking at how aggressively competitive Esports is becoming, teams are always incentivised to lay off gamers if they are underperforming. Even experienced, skilled players are fearful of cutting out or undermining the status they built as world-class gamers.
Further, the lack of industry-wide support for contracts that guarantee gamers minimum income or ensure player stability is a Sword of Damocles approach that nurtures an atmosphere of player anxiety built on job uncertainty. This atmosphere of instability is contradictory to the formation of much-needed unions as it places individuals in a framework of constant competition rather than one of collaboration.
Moreover, very few professional players are legally recognized as employees while the rest spend their gaming careers seeking recognition of their skills.
Beyond gamers, the people behind game development are also at this constant threat of insecurity and instability. The gaming industry is known for its continuous shifts and sudden studio closures, with companies regularly changing hands, which can be extremely disruptive. This year saw DayZ creator Bohemia Interactive shutting down its development studio in Bratislava alongside the end of Ultimatum Games, HQ Trivia and Nexon OC.
Gamers and developers entering the gaming industry are certainly taking high risks; it may pay off if Esports continues to grow and it may not, especially if a player isn’t at the top of his game. But it will undoubtedly be an exciting industry to watch for the foreseeable future.
Gaming is an expensive career option
If you’re aspiring to be a successful gamer, your gaming equipment is your lifeblood, and as we all know it, they don’t come cheap. Whether you use a PC or a console, the upfront cost is quite substantial, and then there are all the additional costs for accessories, games and subscriptions. Funding them all is no easy task, especially for young aspiring gamers; such an investment is as big as buying a first car for students and college kids.
The most important thing to fuel a gaming hobby is unarguably the console itself. The two main consoles on the market currently are the Xbox and the PlayStation and while both have now been out for quite a while, you can still expect to shell out thousands for a new one. However, choosing a console is not an area that you should skimp on as it will be the fuel to your gaming experience.
Further, there’s little point in sparing no expense on top-end consoles if you don’t have a screen to enjoy their magnificent 4K output, multiple teraflops of GPU power and high-quality audio. At the very least, you’ll need a well-sized 4K TV to get the best gaming experience. So, if you don’t already own one, you’re looking at another significant expense for a good TV.
Again, lots of gamers insist also that playing on a dedicated desktop computer is the best way to enjoy gaming, and as we all are aware, gaming laptops dig deep into the pockets. Beyond all these, there are also the periodical expenses of buying games and subscriptions.
Not to mention, it’s also essential to consider the cost of accessories. What you’ll need and buy will depend on you, but most gamers usually want to buy an extra controller and a pair of gaming headphones. Gamers may additionally also want to invest in driving wheels, gaming chairs etc – many of which will enhance your gaming experience. All these combined, it can’t be denied that gaming is one of the more expensive options to launch one’s career in.
Gamers lack parental support
Parents in India are skeptical about letting their child pick a career in sports like cricket, hockey or even football, let alone Esports. Even when it is a legit money-making profession! The Indian Esports market is worth nearly a million dollars and the prize money in tournaments is increasing with each passing day. Despite the financial viability, many parents are still reluctant to support their children’s gaming dreams.
Being a hard-core gamer requires the same level of hard work, focus, and dedication as being an athlete, musician or professor. Unfortunately for them, very few people consider the gaming industry an arena with a lot of opportunities. A big issue for many aspiring gamers is that they enter the gaming scene at a young age and struggle to receive support from their parents, teachers and peers.
While parents aren’t entirely wrong as gaming addiction is a real thing that needs to be taken care of, one can’t deny the rise of professional gaming and live streaming as a viable career.
Parents should support their kids’ interests, encourage them to play and improve their skills while also providing a reality check. It is the parents’ responsibility to identify the child’s potential and help them develop their skills alongside keeping a strong check that playing video games doesn’t become an addiction for the child.
Choosing to be a gamer unarguably has its own highs and lows, but people can also choose a career in game commentary, choose to be an influencer where they can play games, talk about it, or can be a coder who can write great code to build AI for games. According to experts, the most prominent avenue is voice-over artistes, as many developers will look to localise game content for Indian and other regional gamers.
Gamers have health risks
When it comes to sports injuries and health risks, professional video gamers suffer the same way athletes of any other sport do. Despite the lack of physical contact or what some consider to be an athletic activity, the repetitive motions that come with playing video games for hours can take their toll.
There are eye problems from staring at screens for hours, back problems from prolonged sitting, and numerous finger and wrist injuries, including carpal tunnel syndrome.
Blitz Esports stated that when these gamers spend countless hours playing, the fingers and hands’ intense continuous movement causes swelling. This subsequently pinches the nerve found in the carpal tunnel, whose primary function is to carry information from the hand to the brain and vice versa. Early symptoms include numbness and tingling, but as time passes, the hand’s normal movement becomes increasingly difficult.
Further, Esports athletes often give up time for family and friends at an early age to practice at least 12-16 hours a day. The intense lifestyle takes a toll and often burdens gamers with immense pressure and anxiety.
Moreover, Adderall, a drug often prescribed by doctors to treat patients with ADHD is reportedly being used by competitive gamers. The drug acts as a kind of performance enhancer to sharpen their response times and reflex during game play, but it also comes with its own share of side effects.
Gamers have short careers
Unlike more traditional professional athletes, pro gamers do not get to enjoy very long careers. The average retirement age for Esports professionals, as the industry saying goes, is 25. Health issues start affecting gamers’ careers very early in life. Their reflexes and dexterity diminish by their mid-2os and they find it challenging to keep up with the young players.
Additionally, success at a professional level requires gamers to play video games every waking hour of the day. So as people get older, unless gaming is paying all their bills and supporting their families, there’s just no possible way to devote as much time to gaming as one did as a teenager while living at home with their parents.
The likelihood of success in the gaming industry is infinitesimal and, even when one makes it, he/she is out shortly thereafter. Those who don’t, they shift on to other career ventures by their mid-twenties and begin to focus more on providing for themselves and their families.
However, just like other sports, Esports gamers who want to stay close to the game after retirement have career paths in the gaming industry to choose from. Former gamers often take up the role of organizing Esports events or become commentators or “shoutcasters” in Esports jargon.
Another potential avenue for Esports retirees with a solid fan base is to become an online streamer. Streamers are gamers who broadcast their play through streaming platforms like YouTube or Twitch and earn their living. Although being a streamer is no easy task – they have to play well and deliver entertaining commentary as they play.