Let’s see a show of hands: how many of you wanted to play video games professionally when you were young? I can’t actually see you raising your hands, but I’m betting there’s a lot of you. Many have gone on to play games professionally as the field has become more lucrative. There’s a Gamestop in every town, sometimes two or three Gamestops, after all. The concept of eSports has been around since Doom tournaments became a thing, but in recent years services like Twitch and Youtube have really changed the game by making it easier to stream tournaments and view events.
In other words, television no longer has the monopoly on entertainment, and I have to say that I’m pretty happy about that. The problem is that not ALL of the jobs in the industry are great. The job of a video game tester, for example, isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Sure, you sit around and play video games all day, but you don’t have much control over WHAT you play. I mean it could be some crappy mobile game that’s going to give you PTSD. Look at the Android market and remember that someone had to TEST all of that crap at some point. Do you really want to make a career out of that?
Then there are the lucky few who go on to play games on the professional circuit, competing in eSports like League of Legends, DOTA 2, Call of Duty, Counter-Strike, and so many others. I mean damn, the industry has come a long way. In the beginning gamers were thought to be nerds then they graduated to being kids living in their mom’s basement. Now, the world is beginning to see that gamers are much, much more than that. In fact, gamers are making real money, sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars every single year. Can you imagine being paid that kind of money to play League of Legends? It sounds like a dream, but it’s definitely not all it’s cracked up to be.
As the Years Go By
The problem with these games being professionally played is that they require a certain strength of mind, whereas physical sports require strength of body. Until you’ve played video games, you’ll never realize how much faster the mind goes with age than the rest of the body. Here’s the thing though, everyone is different! Everyone degrades mentally at a different rate, meaning you could have children performing at the same level as adults, but you could also find adults falling behind miserably in tournaments.
It’s an uneven playing field that can be ironed out by proper care of the body and of course constant practice. The inevitable factor here, however, is that all eSports players will eventually have to retire. Sure, you might have the odd player that manages to make it into their fifties, but for the most part, you’re going to find that the vast majority of players retire around the ripe old age of thirty. Here’s the question: what do they do after retirement? How do they support themselves? What career options are available?
For The Elite
We’re not going to mince words here, there are some people who are better at eSports than others, and they’re going to have a better chance at a gaming related career after they retire. Some of them will continue to work for their respective teams as coaches, or they may go on to consult for other teams. Their knowledge will be invaluable in the industry as they have spent more time with their game than most.
If they can’t obtain a job as a coach, many will go to work for the game that they play. For example, League of Legends Players often find a place at RIOT games, or CS:GO players will find a place at Valve. Though they may not be able to play competitively anymore, they can still give amazing advice and serve as testers for the games that they once dominated in. These jobs, while available for those who truly excelled in their sport, however, might not be available for everyone.
Moving Down the Ladder
Just like regular sports, eSports are going to have names that we know and love, and then there are going to be names that you forget within a year. This doesn’t meant that they weren’t good at the game, it just means they were unlucky or someone else was better. That being the case, those who believe that they will be unable to find a job in the industry are going to go back to their lives, as it were. They have some advantages on their side here. First of all, they’ve earned money playing their tournaments, assuming they haven’t spent it all, and they will be able to use it toward their college education.
Team Liquid’s Christian Rivera claimed that he wished to return to college following his League career, though today he works as a professional streamer. Now, as you probably know, with so many eSports players out there, not all of them are going to be lucky enough to earn every 14-year-old’s dream job. They have to make a living, and they have to be able to support themselves, meaning some will have to go to the more conventional jobs whether they want to or not. The inability to transition to life after eSports may in fact push some people away from the idea, which would be truly tragic for something that is just taking off. We’re on the cusp of a revolution here, and the last thing we want to do is backslide. Riot Games, however, understands this perfectly and that’s why they’re establishing a program that will help pro-gamers after they retire.
Riot To The Rescue
Riot Games has recognized the need to help players re-enter the real world, as it were, which is why they are developing a program designed to help players with interviewing techniques, brand building, media training, etc. The idea is to help the player transition to the real world while building a brand based upon the persona that they’ve developed while being in the spotlight. This is not much different from mainstream sports, to be perfectly honest. We’ve seen a lot of football and baseball players move on to lucrative careers based upon their original pro-sports careers. In other words, if they have the personality and the wiliness to learn a new trade, there is no reason that they have to fall by the wayside. Additionally, many doctors have stated that the retirement age of players will depend heavily upon the individual. We don’t know where the ceiling is, but we are certain that Riot is trying to find out and is definitely pushing players to become successful even after they leave the eSports arena.
As we all know, not everyone is going to be successful. Even in the mainstream sports world, there are those who will simply fade into obscurity after they leave the world of eSports and we may never hear from them again. Maybe they’ll finish college, or maybe they’ll end up as a burger flipper at McDonalds, but this is an inevitability in any industry that involves fame and fortune but does not have a long term plan.
Acting, singing, sports, and professional gaming all have this in common, and while it is sad in a way, they say that a light that burns twice as bright burns half as long. What we do know, for right now, is that these lights are burning toward a revolution and setting a stage for a world where eSports are finally mainstream. We have a long way to go, unfortunately. If you take a look at the mainstream news sites like Business Insider and CSPAN, whenever they mention pro-gaming leagues, you’ll see a fair amount of comments demanding that these players return to their mother’s basement where they belong. We aren’t quite where we need to be yet, but with companies like Riot and teams like Liquid leading the way, we’re on our way to a better future for eSports.
None of us really know what the future holds for eSports. All we know is that something needs to be done to ensure the future of those that we hold in such high esteem, especially at this early and arguably critical stage of professional gaming. We’ve gotten to where we want to be; gaming is almost mainstream, at least, and now we need to make sure we’re supporting those who put their futures on the line for nothing more than the love of the game and a sweet paycheck.