Although eSports has been growing and growing over the years, it is still scoffed at when people consider gaming to be an actual sport. But with an estimated 71 million viewers a year, huge gaming streaming services such as, YouTube, Twitch and Ustream and the fact that top players can make million dollar salaries, is it time to change our perception of eSports and consider gamers on par with the athletes of the world.
Nate “Ataraxia” Mark, of Llanberis, Gwynedd, was Britain’s top-earning professional gamer in 2015, winning about £80,000 of prize money in the last year. The BBC spoke to the 23-year-old to find out about the pleasure, the pain and the pressure of “living the dream”.
Mark goes on to talk about the sacrifice in order to become a top eSportsman.
“I’m not going to lie, my university [education] really suffered,” Mark said. “It’s quite a sacrifice. I decided this is what I want to do and ended up dropping out over it.”
Mark, who quit his psychology degree at Liverpool University, now spends up to four hours a day practising with his team mates in the run up to big tournaments.
See Mark is captain of the five strong Titan team, that play Smite, a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game with professional leagues and tournaments run by maker Hi-Rez Studios. In January, Titan won $500,000 (£335,000) after finishing second at the 2015 World Championships.
Growing up, I played video games, but to actually turn it into a career, however short-lived it may or may not be, is basically the dream, Mark said. The idea of earning your living by travelling the world and playing video games in front of arenas packed with howling fans sounds, especially to younger ears, like a fantasy.
But the move into eSports is not without its challenges.
Because of the competitive natural that gaming and sports has always had, Mark needs to be at he’s best, coaches are recruited to help teams maximise their performance. It can become very intense but you can’t lose your real love for gaming even though it can become not fun anymore.
Mark has had to make changes to he’s life for he’s profession, and it doesn’t help when people are really undermining him, as if video games are just some outlet for fun, but there is a lot of work, there’s a lot of preparation.
“You do have to sacrifice a lot. Not everyone can make a living out of it, you have to practice in the early evening and late at night.
“If all of my friends go to the cinema or go out drinking – I have missed a lot of that because I have to practice.”
“You don’t get a lot of free time. It’s very anti-social just because to win you have to practice. It’s very much, if you don’t win or play well then the income is going to be really, really little.”
eSports careers can be as short as just 4 years, this is probably because of the intense pressure and deteriorating reaction times as you get older. So is it worth it? Is it worth getting into a career as an e-Sportsman or game streamer? Well for those few that can make it in the highly competitive and short career. People like;
Peter Dager, 24, US – $2m (£1.33m)
Saahil Arora, 26, US – $2m (£1.33m)
Kurtis Ling, 23, Canada – $1.88m (£1.25m)
Yes, yes it was worth getting into. eSports is here to stay and how big it will become is anyone’s guess but with eSports gaming events such as The 2014 World Championships final for another professional MOBA game, the hugely popular League of Legends, was watched on TV and online by an estimated global audience of 27 million. That more than some sporting events for what we would call your traditional sports finals.
You can read the full eSports article here