Going professional in esports

With millions of people playing video games recreationally, what does a "noob" have to do to take their gaming professional? Or, figuratively "clock-up enough experience points to progress to the next level"? After all, being paid to game is a dream for so many.

The skills needed for professional esports

Frankie Ward says:

"Practice, practice, practice! If you're playing a team game, you'll need to work on your communication skills as well as what you can do mechanically. You need a good attitude, and that starts with a healthy routine - from sleeping regularly to healthy eating and exercise."

Chris Ball aka 'Sacriel' says:

"Work ethic is an important quality of a pro-gamer, as well as consistency, and the ability to identify what your weaknesses are - we spend a lot of time working towards improving these parts of our game."

Aoife Wilson says:

"The most successful professional gamers I've met are incredibly focused, extremely professional, confident, and have a deep understanding of how their entire culture works. Not only that - they are excellent communicators."

Logical thinking

Strategy games, in particular, stimulate the brain and require intelligent thinking.

Problem solving skills

Many games present a variety of problems, with a variety of solutions. Rational thinking is a real advantage.

Quick reaction times

Some games move at a rapid pace and sharp responses are essential.

Commitment

To go professional, players need to be prepared to dedicate many hours to practice.

Teamwork

Cooperation and communication with team members makes for efficiency.

The kit you need to get started

If you're going to compete at a high level, you're going to need the best equipment you can get. This means investing in some quality hardware that is designed with gaming in mind. If you're looking to go professional, it's likely you already have a gaming PC or console, however, it may be worth upgrading your set up for optimal performance and graphics quality.

If you're a PC gamer, you can ramp up your experience by upgrading to a high-end CPU. The latest 10th Gen Intel® Core™ gaming processors, for example, deliver the right balance of clock speeds, cores and threads to give you seamless gameplay and high FPS (frames per second).

Chris Ball aka 'Sacriel' says:

"As a streamer it's very important to maintain high gaming frames per second while maintaining a high encoding quality for your viewers. For me, the Intel® "K" series range is perfect as I'm able to overclock* my cores to give my system the boost I need to produce a high-quality stream."

Frankie Ward says:

"You want a PC that can react as quickly as you do - with an Intel® Core™ i7 CPU or higher, you'll be esports ready, and can even record and stream your gameplay at the same time – essential for building up your following."

Aoife Wilson says:

"High refresh rate monitors can offer a much smoother experience with less input lag, and most professional players will tell you that a reliable and responsive mechanical keyboard is an absolute must."

How to choose 'your game'

When it comes to competing in esports, it's not a simple case of picking up a controller and playing any game in front of you. Professionals specialise in one or two games, focusing their time and energy on perfecting their performance. Like tennis is to racquet sports, each individual game is to the broader esports collective.

So, what do players have to consider when choosing which game to compete in?

Chris Ball aka 'Sacriel' says:

"The best game to get into when moving into professional gaming or streaming is something you actually enjoy. It's clear to see when a streamer is forcing themselves to play a type of game they don't enjoy just because they feel a 'big' game is their only option - so instead find something that you can be passionate about."

The top players' main competitive games

Looking at the main competitive games of the top male and female players, there are significant variations between the two groups. While the male players all focus on one of five key games - namely Dota 2, Fortnite, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, League of Legends and Shadowverse - the female players' list is much more diverse.

Battle arena game, Dota 2 - the chosen competitive game of 68% of the top male players - doesn't even get a look in among the female players, while digital collectible card games like Hearthstone and Magic: The Gathering Arena are popular options.

Male Players Female Players
Dota 2 Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
Fortnite Fortnite
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Teamfight Tactics
League of Legends Hearthstone
Shadowverse Overwatch

Training routines and diets

If you think the odd Sunday afternoon gaming marathon will cut it when it comes to going professional, think again. Pro-gamers have vigorous training routines to make sure they know their chosen game inside out and can respond to anything thrown their way. A nutritious diet is also essential for maintaining good health and energy levels.

Frankie Ward says:

"Esports teams are beginning to bring their routines in line with more traditional sports. Counter-Strike team Astralis, for example, has a coach, sports psychologist, and a physiotherapist. They also have a nutritionist and a sleep doctor that they can access,should they need extra help."

Train everyday

It's not unheard of for esports players to train for 10 hours a day.

Exercise regularly

It's important to stay physically fit to counteract the hours spent sitting and to boost physical reactions and stamina.

Eat nutritious energy-rich food

Long stints of gaming require fuel to boost energy levels and maintain good health.

Get plenty of rest

Screen time can be exhausting, so 8 hours of sleep is essential for recharging.

Watch other people play

A lot can be learnt from watching other players' tricks and techniques.

Esports vs. streaming

There's never been a better time to make a career out of gaming, but esports isn't the only path to go down if you're looking to go professional. Streaming is another option that many avid gamers take and once a significant following has been built up, it's very possible to make a living from it, earning from brand sponsorships, subscription commission, and fan donations.

Unlike esports players, who are all about perfecting their performance for competition, streamers are more about entertaining their fans by live-streaming their gameplay. Streaming therefore allows more flexibility to play various different games, as they are not competing in any one specific title. To get started you'll need a high-quality microphone and webcam, as well as a gaming PC that can support streaming. A 10th Gen Intel® Core™ i7 powered PC would be perfect for streaming and recording simultaneously without compromising performance.

And for those who want a career in gaming without being on the front line, there are also opportunities to become an esports coach, presenter or commentator.

Aoife Wilson says:

"As someone working in the gaming industry, the advice I would give to gamers who want to go professional is to be just that - professional. Treat it like you would any other career path from the very beginning and be disciplined, realistic in the goals you set for yourself and ready to learn and grow from your mistakes."