By James Dominic Flores
Every person, young or old, who has played video games has at one point imagined what life would be like if they won the biggest tournaments and prizes in esports like Winning Worlds for the League of Legends (LoL) players.
For the fighting game community, winning at that level of play is a life-changing accomplishment for those who have clawed and fought their way to the top.
Even our very own local tournaments such as the Mobile Legends: Bang Bang Professional League (MPL) has had its fair share of prestige and glory that gets many Filipinos invested as shown by the millions of viewership hours the tournament takes in.
MORE ON ESPORTS:
How to turn pro in esports?
For those who would dare to pursue this dream, one of the biggest hurdles comes at the start: How exactly does one become a pro esports player?
Let’s address the elephant in the room right away. You need to be extremely skilled to be a professional player. Most competitive games have a ranking system that evaluates a player’s skill level.
Oftentimes this is represented by the percentage of wins a player has when playing online. Of over 100 million LoL players monthly, players who have attained challenger rank account for only 0.013% of the total player base according to leagueofgraphs.com, and even then, not everyone in challenger rank is able to go professional.
Alright, so what if you do have the skill to be included in that elite group of players? Beyond in-game skill, esports professionals are required to have a number of strong life skills as well. Competitive pedigree and desire to win are vital to every player. Pros should be responsible to develop a winning mindset and culture for themselves and for their organization as this provides them with a motivation to sustain excellence in performance.
Effective communication skills are also a must. This includes communication with your teammates, coaches, and management. Communication skills are applied beyond the shot-calls that your team makes during crucial moments of the game.
Open communication allows a player to express their goals and future plans with the organization. Does the player need more support from management in terms of facilities or funds? How can a player bounce back after a string of subpar performances? These issues and so many more starts with good communication.
Communication skills are also necessary in negotiating player contracts, making sure both the player and organization come to an agreement in areas such as salary, performance and splitting of prize pools. Good communication is also vital between pros and their fans, which leads us to our next point.
The best players are able to build their brand to the audience. Branding not only attracts fans, but teams and sponsorships as well. The image of an esport pro goes side by side with their skill just like in any other sport.
Think about the superstar power and raw skill that Kyrie Irving brings to the team and how his recent behaviors and stances on issues like vaccination damaged his reputation in the NBA.
Even our very own Carlo “Kuku” Palad, who is a nice and fun person and iconic player in the Filipino Dota 2 scene had at one point damaged his reputation heavily due to a racially insensitive joke in one of his games.
Pros need to be physically and mentally well
Professional doesn’t just mean skilled; it means they are also responsible and accountable due to the platform they have in esports. To temper all of these skills together, a player needs to be committed to physical and mental wellness.
A sound body and mind enable a pro to hone their skills to perfection. Physical and mental well-being go hand in hand with each other, no matter how mentally strong a pro is, they are always limited by what their body can execute.
Similarly, even if you are physically healthy and can execute all the precise movements in your game, if their mental faculties such as confidence, problem-solving, resilience are in question, it can also result to poor performance.
The path to the top of esports is much more than “press buttons, win game.” The mindset and skill that each professional esports player needs to be able to compete and win at the highest level are similar to all the skills it takes to be a successful professional in any field.
Much like any career path, one invests time and passion to be at the top of their game. The ideal esports player is not just one that wins tournaments; today, pro players have the opportunity to erase the negative stigma about gamers through esports. It is a responsibility that each pro player carries in order to open doors for other aspiring gamers today and tomorrow.
About the author: James Dominic Flores is Program Chair of the College of Arts and Sciences at San Sebastian College, specializing in psychology. He is also a competitive gamer specializing in fighting games.