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what exactly is professional gaming?

Written: 17:28 on January 01, 2007  |  By: jon  |  MORE…
It may (or may not, these days) come as a surprise that you can be considered a professional at a video-game. Several countries have even been fighting to get some of these competitive video-games listed as sports (under the moniker ‘e-sports’). Akin to the Olympic Games, the World Cyber Games or WCG for short is held every year and has the full backing of corporate sponsors Samsung. These competitions (from which competitors fly from all over the globe) aren’t just about pride – there is some serious money up for grabs: $462,000 passed through in 2006, and it’s looking set to surpass $500,000 this year. Several smaller contests all over the world take place during each year in each country, at LAN events such as i-series in the United Kingdom and dreamhack in Sweden.

Support for these tournaments is strongest at current in the East, with the United States fast in pursuit. In Europe, many nations are warming to the idea (particularly Scandinavian countries) but here in the United Kingdom, uptake has been slow – but why? And how can sitting in front of a computer be considered a sport, and how can you be professional at playing a video-game?

To answer these two questions, you need to consider what the definition of professional is. A professional, according to the dictionary, is a person who earns a living in a sport or other occupation frequently engaged in by amateurs; for example, golf professionals. With the purses at some of the larger events reaching and in some cases surpassing yearly salaries for traditional jobs, it isn’t difficult to see why people can live off the money and become professional. At these events, the way in which tournaments take place mimic classic sporting events such as the World Cup – so many parallels can be drawn between ‘classic’ sport and e-sports that it seems almost obvious to group them together. Obviously, this angers some people. I for one have definitely seen heat rise about the subject, usually because of the lack of physical training involved in playing a video-game. However, the mental training, practice and obedience required to make it to the top of the e-sports world is staggering.

I've been playing counter-strike source practically every day since before it came out, and its predecessor sporadically before that still. I have been playing games on and off since the age of 6, and I can quite openly say that at times, I’ve been completely addicted to them. However, I am far from the level of skill seen within some of the top players today, and I can barely class myself as a strong player in the amateur circuit. Occasionally whilst playing, I’ll run into players in the United Kingdom that are teetering on the edge. They have the skill, but nobody is there to push them, elevate them into a position of fame, money, competitions. I still wonder why the United Kingdom has been slow to pick up on the competitive scene, and companies so slow to nourish its growth. Only this year has a company seemingly taken notice (the company being eBuyer). They have organised a LAN event where the prize is a year contract, with PC equipment, travel, expenses, clothing and accommodation all being taken care for. To win, all you must to is prove your team the best in the entire country. The scene has been buzzing about this for several months already, but the sign-ups are closed and the competition is due to start soon.

With approximately £40,000 at stake, this is an important and much needed step forward for our “competitive scene”. Perhaps 2007 will be the year when competitions of this nature become more accepted by the general public, perhaps not as a sport (I can’t see that ever happening), but as a viable industry, and something to be encouraged… especially when you can be earning close to $1,000,000 per year at the top.

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