Ken "Chaobo" Serra is a writer for GameGeex and a former professional gamer, specializing in competitive multiplayer mechanics. Having attended several tournaments across the country to act as both spectator and competitor, he hopes to share his love of eSports with the world through this series about his past pro gaming experiences.
I’m sure all of you at one point have heard of professional gaming. Whether you mock it, praise it, or just accept it, there are people out there who make a living competing in the video games that you likely play everyday. Organizations like Major League Gaming, Electronic Sports League, and National Gaming League are becoming more popular everyday. It won’t be long before you’ll begin to recognize your favorite gaming pros on the street.
With the rise of this curiosity for what the world of competitive gaming is like, there will always be people who want to know what it takes to make it in: How much time will it take? What level of skill is needed? “Can I be in it?” The answer is yes… a very big YES. When it comes down to it, it’s all about how much passion and heart you have into putting what is needed to get there, not how much skill you already have.
Unlike traditional sports like basketball and football, the world of gaming doesn’t scout you out. You don’t find MLG representatives in random public games looking for talent and you’re not going to see them stop-by and watch you play. On top of that, as a train-of-thought among most pros and people who follow them, public matches does not take very skill, especially in shooters. I’ve seen players that have 4.00 Kill/Death ratios get slaughtered by even the most basic players who are just beginning their trek as a pro gamer. In fact, the players that kill me the most have under 1.00 K/D! What do stats even mean? Sure, they’re numbers but does it tell you how that person got those numbers? Nope. Don’t rely on stats to gauge players. It keeps less things on your mind.
You’ll learn to realize, once you enter the world of eSports, it’s a whole different playing field. Much like actual sports, you’ll find right away that players have a larger respect for each other. Yea, you get the bad eggs here and there but overall, it’s a better environment for the serious gamer. Everyone has the desire to win and sure, frustration can get to you when you don’t, but you have to understand that when you lose, you have been bested and you have to accept it and improve.
Individual skill is important; in order to win, it comes down to how smart your plays are, your ability to understand what the opponents are most likely to do, and about 80% of the time, what you’re doing to support your team in a team-based game. It’s not about how many killstreaks you get or how fast you are at being able to K/O someone, it’s about how you do it and who you can do it to.
Alright so now that I got that out of the way, let’s talk about how to get in. You obviously need to have a good foundation and knowledge of the game you intend to compete in before you enter. You want to polish your skills in shooting in an fps, combos in a fighting game, and tactics in an RTS. The best way to see how you’re doing is to record your own gameplay and analyze it. With many games having their own recording systems and plenty of free alternatives on the web, that shouldn’t be a problem.
You want to be able to understand your own playstyle. Many players find themselves not “truly” thinking when they game and that deserves a slap on the hand. Your playstyle has a strength and a weakness and doing reckless things or relying on adrenaline does not lead to victory in the pro gaming world. Fully understanding this will help improve your game. You want to note the fact you might not be checking corners, have bad aim, and perhaps aren’t aware of the map or your own teammates. These are problems among others that can easily be fixed with very little time spent on personal game analysis. I always say fix it or work around it. Have bad aim? Manage the map to force the close-quarter battle. Too aggressive? Play objective. There are many ways to work around your weaknesses. It’s up to you to find out what to do.
Once you’ve enhanced your skills and have done what you can on your own to get better, it’s time to put yourself to the test. If you really want to find out how well you match up with other players, you’re going to want to join a competitive online community. Websites like Gamebattles and Virgin Gaming host a ton of online tournaments for a variety of games and genres and also help organize scrims among different teams and players. These are places you want to go to not only test yourself, but to improve yourself as well. Do a couple matches and see how you fair. There are plenty of free-for-all and 1v1 ladders for you to jump in and do quick matches. Unfortunately, you might not do so well at first but that’s fine. It’s a little different from the standard pub match and might take some time to get used to. Now, instead of maybe one good player on a team of eight, everyone’s good. I’ve seen 4v4s become far more intense and fast-paced than most big team battle modes.
Now that you have a better understanding of things, you should be able to understand the tricks pros have in their arsenal. Some of them do some amazing things or even do the obvious things that no one ever thinks about. It’s all about taking your knowledge and using your strategies appropriately. FPS pros know all the safe spots and fighting game pros spend plenty of time on their frame data. But remember, they’re only human. You can do what they can do and you have to have that positive mindset. Learn from these pros, take the tips that are viable to you and embrace them. Gaming communities like VvV-Gaming, Shoryuken, and SK-Gaming host a slew of pros that release videos for you to watch. And with that being said, pros do indeed market themselves, at least the more serious hardcore gamers do.
Yes, you have to make a name for yourself. You are given many opportunities in organizations that already exist and it’s up to you to take advantage of it. It’s available to everyone and being able to use these tools and rise above the rest is the ultimate test of skill and passion you have for competitive gaming. There are plenty of pros from all the different genres out there who do services to the public, whether it’s gaming with the fans or even as little as a live feed of their gameplay every week. They all do it to please their audience and ultimately because most of them enjoy doing it. Of course, it helps promote themselves and what they do. There’s no easy way in. It doesn’t matter how amazing of a player you are if no one knows you even exist, but all of that can come later when you’ve walked deeper down the path.
So finally, after improving, knowing, and testing yourself, it might just be time to join in a live event. This could be anything whether it’s a local store tournament or a big worldwide event. Plenty of people do better live. Some do worse. It’s a bit different when you’re able to stare down your opponent and give them a handshake before the match starts. Don’t be nervous. Gaming is all about the mentality. A positive and prepared attitude will really help you prepare for anything.
With all that being said, you have to build your way up. Try and start small with plenty of practice and then go big. Competitive gaming is a way of life for some but really, it’s just one big hobby like anything else. And like any hobby, you’ll meet both the hardcore and casual enthusiasts. Esports is tough, but like anything, enough practice and devotion will help you rise to the top. Should you choose to venture off into the life of pro-gaming, I wish you the best of luck.