While some may still believe that video games are a waste of time, it’s impossible to argue against those that take advantage of the monetary value of the hours they’ve put into playing. Prizes in competitions can range anywhere from a couple thousand dollars, to almost 3 million dollars. At last year’s The International 2013: Dota 2 Championships, the winners took home $1.4 million to split between the five of them, and the rest was divided up among the top 10 finishers, ranging from 2nd place taking home over $600K, and 7-8th places taking home over $43K.
So besides a love for the game, what separates those that win thousands over those that play for hours at home? In short, a lot of work. Professional gamers don’t just put time into playing, they make sure that every aspect of their skills are perfected, from their concentration, to their physical and mental well-being. If you think you have what it takes to be a professional gamer, you’ll have to do a lot more than fire up your PlayStation everyday.
There is a lot of focus that goes into playing tournaments that can last hours and well into the night. While caffeine and energy drinks might keep competitors from falling asleep in their chairs, gamers can’t solely depended on them to stay sharp during competition.
Professional poker player Jared Tendler has mentored over 300 players in the game. According to PartyPoker on Twitter, he wrote about “eliminating external distractions” for the hours required during lengthy competitions. Tendler says players have to diligently avoid any and all distractions, and specifically checking phones/social media. He also says that when players do find themselves losing focus, it’s crucial for them to remind themselves of their goal for the tournament and the motivation behind that goal. To an outsider, it may seem like the competitors are mindlessly playing, but there is actually a great deal of introspection taking place.
To fully prepare for a tournament, competitors have to be up to date on the newest developments of the game. Daily programs on Twitch TV, an online video source for gamers, keep players on top of the latest strategies. Newly developed content or game updates can have a large effect on players’ strategy, so they have to be knowledgable on the latest changes at all times.
There’s also a matter of sizing up your competition. Just like in classic sports, it’s important for players to know where their competitors’ weakness are, and use them to their advantage when planning an attack with their team—another lengthy process that requires gamers to strategize the best possible methods for winning the tournament.
They might not need to spend hours a day in the gym, but being physically healthy is certainly beneficial for a professional gamer. Professional StarCraft II commentator and gamer Thomas Kilian, or Khaldor as he’s known around the circuit, is an icon for physical fitness in the gaming world. He frequently makes posts to social media about workouts and the importance of physical health.
Reiterating the previous points made by Tendler, a player’s physical health can also help with their concentration. Being fit can help them feel more awake and allow them to maintain longer periods of strenuous focus. Physically fit players are also less likely to get frustrated and more likely to push themselves to succeed.
If you’re interested in playing games professionally, remember, it is a profession—you have to devote just as much time and energy into it as you would a 40+ hour a week office job. Even then, there’s still a chance that you walk home empty handed, but at least most of the work will be fun!