Esports
Esports

So you want to be an Esports Pro?

So you want to be an Esports Pro?
Playing games is a daily activity for a lot of people. It can be relaxing, an escape from the real world to a magical place, a way of socialising, and a method of competition. It’s in our nature to measure ourselves. Whether we compete with our previous performance or with others, still we compete. As we move towards our goals, we get that tingle, the satisfaction of achievement.For most of us, not reaching those goals isn’t a problem. We had fun trying, we played games with our friends, and we moved on to the next thing. Some people refuse to accept it. They push to be better and better, relentlessly learning, and practicing until they achieve their aims.These are the people who make it into the highest echelons of esports. Esports are the competitive stages for video games of all kinds, from one on one games like Blizzard’s Starcraft 2 and Hearthstone to team games like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive or DOTA 2 where players compete online or in person at LAN events.So what happens when you realise you want to compete? The best thing to do is start competing as soon as you can. Since most games have matchmaking ladders online, it can be hard to actually expose yourself to the highest levels of play without grinding rank. Tournaments and ladders hosted externally to the game are a great way to find yourself being pushed by opponents that are much better than you. Sink or swim definitely applies here!Once you’ve played a few tournaments, you should have an idea of where you stack up against your competition. Now is the time to focus on what went well and what didn’t. In a game like Hearthstone, points to focus on could be your class choices, your read of the tournament metagame (what strategies other players are likely to utilise), your execution of your decks’ overall strategy, and even micro decisions like minion placement. In Rocket League, it could be rotation and positioning, kick-off strategy, option coverage, or mechanical execution.For people who play those games casually or not at all, most of that last paragraph is very specific and can be difficult to understand fully. The key is essentially this: Did you win? If yes, what did you do? Break it down, analyse it, and then replicate it in practice and future matches. If no, the question is the same. Break down what you did that your opponent didn’t, or what they did and you didn’t. Once you’ve identified the improvement are, focus on practising that. It’s this constant cycle of analysis and practice that athletes of all kinds use and it applies just as much to esports.It’s time to step up your game. Start finding practice partners and teammates, perhaps even a personal coach. At the end of the day, winning gets you noticed. If you can do it consistently, finding teammates shouldn’t be a challenge. Many tournaments are open to anyone, there’s a huge number of them and many are game specific. Most competitors start in community cups or lower level leagues. The games that have been around for a while such as Hearthstone or League of Legends have structures that are intended to encourage player development. There are many ways to gain Hearthstone Championship Tour points, through high finishes on the in-game ladder or through competing in eligible open cups at LAN events and online.The key takeaway is that the journey is different depending on the game. Other games like Rocket League are still developing and there is a gap between weekly $100-250 cups and the $300,000 RLCS. In the UK, Insomnia, a huge LAN event, and Gfinity, an online tournament organiser, are the only avenues to jump from the little weekly cups to the big leagues themselves and that’s a recent change for Rocket League specifically.Esports are essentially built on community. There are exceptions to this like Blizzard’s Overwatch but generally an esport starts with the players and expands out. Slowly, we are seeing this change as esports become a priority for the developer’s of these games, for both marketing of the game and as recognition of the best players and content creators. Eventually, the structures and tiers of tournaments will be more generic and implemented across a variety of games. For now though, it’s the wild west.The quickest way to get onto the top levels of competition is network within the community, perform consistently, and maintain your visibility to fans of the esport. It’s all great practice for what you’ll need to be doing later on. It’s worth pointing out that this section doesn’t just apply to players because casters/commentators, writers, and streamers can get a lot of advice and help this way too.Networking is essential for any team games. How can you get onto a team or start your own if you don’t know any other players? All networking is, is talking to people. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your favourite players, ask for their advice, ask them why they decided to implement a particular strategy, congratulate them on their performance, or anything else you want to ask or say to them. They may not reply immediately, or at all. Most people will and since generally speaking everyone wants everyone else to love their favourite thing as much as they do, the advice you can get can be great.Consistent performance, both in terms of placing and how often you compete will raise your profile within the competitive community. There’s only so many times someone will play you in the final stages before they remember you. Since practising is such a large part of what you should be doing, this is one of the best ways of finding players around your level and ties into the networking aspect as well.It’s when you get to this stage that you’ll begin to understand the effort you’ll need to put in and how esports can become more than a hobby. You may have made some money from tournaments, from streaming, or perhaps creating videos online. Hopefully, you’ll also have some fans that show up to watch you play. A word of warning: this isn’t for everyone. You need to find the majority of this constant cycle of repetition enjoyable and rewarding whether you make money from it or not. After all, there are much easier ways to make money doing something you don’t enjoy.