Your kid announces they’re foregoing higher education for a career in sports — and not the kind that involves throwing a ball or swinging a bat. Instead, they’ll use a controller, mouse or keyboard will be in hand for monumental battles between monkeys and robots. This is the world of competitive video games, better known as eSports. The question that immediately bubbles up: can they actually make a living playing eSports?
The short answer is yes. For professional gamers, esports function much the same as traditional sports do for professional athletes. Players join teams. There are designated seasons with high-stakes leagues and tournaments.
Just as you’d expect in traditional sports, the teams have their own managers and coaches. They have heavy-hitting sponsors, as well. Currently, the professional esports team 100 Thieves is sponsored by companies including Red Bull, Razer Inc. and Totino’s. And Scooter Braun, who represents artists like Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande, and Grammy-winning artist Drake have invested in the company.
The sponsors help provide things like equipment and facilities for the players to exercise. Yes, contrary to the stereotype of a boy sitting in his parents’ basement eating jump food while he mindlessly plays games over and over, keeping in good physical condition is part of being a competitive gamer. Esports teams require members stay in good physical condition to offset sitting in one place for extended periods of time. There’s a risk of hand and wrist injuries, along with the mental stress that comes with doing anything at a competitive level.
Team members are paid salaries (anywhere from $1,000 to $15,000 per month) on top of the prize money they earn from winning or placing in competitions. So, the better you are, the more you can earn.
The Trouble with Esports Careers
Most games played at a competitive level require excellent hand-eye coordination, problem-solving skills, complex strategizing, and the ability to make vital decisions at a moment’s notice.
Much like traditional sports, no one can perform esports at a professional level forever. Eventually, a gamer’s motor skills slow and they’re unable to compete on the same level they once did. This makes retirement necessary.
Another issue esports competitors face is that some games, particularly those requiring online connectivity, require continuous support from the companies that created them in order to function as sources of organized competition. So, unlike mainstream professional sporting events, if a company drops out all the players lose.
In 2018, the company Blizzard decided to pull money and resources away from Heroes of the Storm, a competitive team-based game it owns. That meant canceling an upcoming championship event. Players who’d spent months preparing for the event (not to mention others involved, like commentators) had wasted their time, effort, and resources. And none of them saw any prize money.
So, What Should Parents Do?
We’ve written about how parents can support their esports-loving child, but a key takeaway is this:
“You would support them in esports like you would support them in any other competitive activity,” says Kyle Trantham, the manager of content/music and lifestyle relations for Esports Arena. He tells Parentology, “If your child liked baseball, you would look into the local community for tournaments or leagues, you would try to get them the equipment they need to be successful, and you would do your best to understand the game they are playing. When I was younger, I wanted to play baseball, so my dad signed me up for little league, bought me a bat and glove, played catch with me, and told me how he thought I could improve.”
Indeed, most parents support their kids in physical sports because they enjoy it, not because they assume their son or daughter will be the next Olympian. Just like athletic sports, esports come with the same pain, pleasure, risk and reward, and all of those elements develop better life skills a child can use in the future.
Esports Careers — Sources
Polygon: Heroes of the Storm pros vent sadness, anger after Blizzard kills game’s eSports future
Influencer Marketing Hub: Top 10 eSports Teams, Earnings, and Salaries
Men’s Health: How Elite eSports Athletes Whip Themselves Into Shape to Compete