Many gamers go on to become part of a sponsored team, meaning they really do get paid to play computer games all day. This may sound like the ideal job for some but it becomes just that – a job. With tournaments in venues in South Korea that were formerly used for the FIFA World Cup in 2002 now packed out with people eager to cheer on their favourite teams, simple playtime has dropped by the wayside and hard work stepped up to replace it. Tuesday to Friday are spent with the team, playing endless games and discussing tactics and strategies. Competitive games are on Saturday and Sunday only but on their Monday off, the dedicated gamer will put in the usual number of hours – between 12 and 16, depending on how driven they are. What little time they have to themselves gets eaten up by being photographed for team photo opportunities or sponsorship obligations. Many sleep around five hours a night during the gaming season.
Technology and drugs
This intense pressure to perform can lead, almost inevitably, to drug use. Gamers don’t need steroids or boosted blood and amphetamines would leave them unable to rein in their emotions well enough to play. As pro gaming is a relatively new sport, the regulations applied to ‘normal’ sports men and women don’t yet apply in any official capacity. The gamers’ drugs of choice carry no obvious visual cues so often go undetected. Ritalin and Adderall, drugs specifically for use in treating Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are designed to make the user focus their thoughts more clearly and is thus a top choice for those who need a little extra to help their game. Overuse or non-prescribed use has some horrifying side effects, from a schizophrenia-like state to major psychoses and heart failure or sudden death. Some, like their Olympian counterparts, feel this is a risk worth taking.
But it’s not all gloom in the world of competitive gaming. The vast majority are as clean living and hardworking as me (I don’t know about you) and take the whole thing very seriously. Serious seems to be the operative word for these people, too. While they may not be in the same league as Cristiano Ronaldo, there’s a very real chance that the people at the top of their game can have a following bigger than that of some movie stars. With female gamers every bit as good as their male counterparts, there’s fan worship, money and fame for anyone who wants to take it.
The next time a teenage family member asks you to lend them some money for game time or tells you they need another couple of hours on the computer to work on their kill/death ratio, cut them some slack – it could be the best investment you make this year.