How to Become an Esports Pro

Posted on July 11, 2018 - Last Updated on October 8, 2020
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What are the skills you need to get started?

When it comes to becoming an Esports pro, there are skills you will absolutely need. This doesn’t mean in-game skills like character mastery or the like, but more general areas of expertise. Some of these may be easier to pick up than others, but they are all essential to getting started as a pro.

1. PC Knowledge

computer

Most of the esports scene in general, and the Overwatch scene in particular, takes place on PC. While console versions are available and actually quite popular, the actual competitions are taking place mostly on PC. As such, especially while training, you’ll need to know quite a lot about your PC.

Depending on your available funds, you may not be able or willing to buy the most top of the line machine in order to compete. That will mean that you will have to regularly upgrade your computer with better parts in order to achieve the best performance.

While most pros won’t need to build or maintain their own equipment, on the road there, you will want to make sure you play on the best rig possible. Even the most skilled players won’t be able to succeed if he or she was forced to play on the proverbial potato.

2. Industry/Game Knowledge

This one is absolutely essential. Knowing what’s going on not just in the esports industry but in your chosen game especially is absolutely key. This goes beyond just watching pro games and knowing who is on what team. The more industry knowledge you have, the easier it will be to break into the esports pro world.

Pay attention to not just the games that are played, but also the business decisions around them. What sponsors are joining, which are changing teams and what outside interests are active in esports. Knowing more about the owners and staff of the teams – especially the ones you are hoping to join – could be invaluable.

3. Personal skills (Determination, Dedication,…)

This is perhaps the most important thing to have and it can also be the hardest to achieve. While you can improve your gaming skills through training, getting better at these is a little more tricky. Nevertheless, you need to be prepared. Overwatch pros like Muma spend an insane amount of time practicing each day.

Patience, perseverance, the ability to deal with setbacks and with disappointments, determination, dedication and more are all absolutely key to becoming a pro. The most talented of players still won’t be able to make it in the pro world unless he or she is able to show these skills.

In order to become an Overwatch pro, you will have to give up quite a lot. Free time, most likely some friends that won’t understand what you are doing and perhaps even your sleep schedule – making sacrifices on the way to pro-dom is inevitable. It’s one of the less pleasant parts of pro players lives. Those who make it though, get to step on the International stage of one of the most epic esports in the world, side-by-side with some of the best players the League has to offer.

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What are the most popular esports games?

There are several different successful esports titles across several different genres each with their own unique fan-bases and leagues to compete in. Pinpointing which of the games are the most popular ones is difficult.

When considering a career in esports, you may be tempted to go for the most popular ones or one that features players you enjoy watching, but there are more important criteria to consider. Choose a game or genre you enjoy playing, even if it isn’t one of the most popular ones at the moment.

That may in fact have benefits for you – the bigger an esport, the more competitors are vying for a spot on the same team. Esports like Overwatch that are more fluid and flexible, can often offer a better environment for new pros than older esports can.

1. Overwatch

overwatch-pros

Though not the biggest esport (that honor sadly belongs to League of Legends), the Overwatch esports league is one of the most active and popular with fans. Blizzard games have a history of becoming successful esports, and Overwatch is, of course, no exception here.

2. League of Legends

Whether it is by Twitch viewers, yearly revenue or just about any other scale, League of Legends is by far the most popular esport in the world. It’s no surprise then, that the MOBA was chosen as an exhibition game for the next Asian Games taking place later this year – the closest an esport has ever gotten to being part of the Olympics.

3. CS:GO

NaVi win

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is one of the most popular First-Person-Shooter esports. Along with games like Call of Duty, FPS games tend to also be quite popular, and CSGO has long since been one of the top contenders in this bracket. Though often criticised for its unpleasant community and the lack of separate server for Russia and Eastern Europe, the tournaments and prize pools for this esport are some of the biggest out there.

4. Hearthstone

Collectible card games without the need to actually hoard cards certainly have appeal, Hearthstone is proof of that. In the past four years, the game has exceeded 70 million registered players, and despite the lack of ‘action’ that is found in games like FPS and MOBAs, it has a big fanbase. This is in part because of its close relation to the World of Warcraft franchise of course, but the game is nevertheless a serious esports title.

5. Starcraft 2

Starcraft 2 is one of the oldest games that still has a thriving esports scene, and thriving it is. Despite being released several years ago, the game is all but a national sport in South Korea. The country is almost solely responsible for the continued success of the game. In fact, few non-Koreans ever achieve the level of mastery of this RTS as expert Korean players do.

6. Rocket League, Dota 2, PUBG…

There are of course several more games that have successful esports worlds. In fact, there are dozens more. Before considering a career in esports, it’s important to select a game to pursue a career in. If not a single game, you should at least decide on a genre, as you’ll be spending a lot of time playing whatever game you choose (though we definitely recommend Overwatch. It’s great!).


How to get to pro level playing Overwatch?

A big part of becoming an Overwatch pro player has very little to do with actual gameplay. You need tenacity, determination, time, resources and ideally, a connection or two in the biz, but at the end of the day, skill is, of course, a factor.

Once you join a team as a pro player, you’re already pretty much guaranteed to be good. Pro teams train practically every day in order to improve their already considerable skill-set, but in order to get there, you have to improve your skills all on your own first. There are different ways to do this and different strategies you can employ to improve your skills.

Play overwatch

1. Get to know your characters

For a character-driven game like Overwatch – and also games like LoL, Dota, and similar titles, it all starts and ends with the unique characters and their abilities. Get to know them, their skills, movement speeds and everything else.

The same also goes for the maps – get to know them so well you could navigate them with your eyes closed. You probably shouldn’t practice that during a ranked match, but you will definitely need to know the maps like the back of your hand.

As for the characters – there are countless strategy guides online, so you can look up any info that you may not yet have. Next, you will want to practice playing with all the different characters. While it’s true that pros often specialise, they will usually still be above average for most of the other characters.

2. Practice, practice, practice

This one is pretty obvious – in order to get better, you need to practice regularly. Make sure you practice both things you’re already good at, and things you can’t do well yet. If you don’t, you may miss out on developing certain key skills or you may lose an edge you already had.

Set yourself goals like you may have done for school. Whether it’s a weekly, monthly or daily goal, do your best to set and meet it. This means that you should try to come up with something like ‘play X games as character Y’ or ‘execute combo Z X times’.

Do your best to meet your goals but don’t sweat it if you can’t always pull it off – it’s not a test, after all, so don’t forget to have fun!

3. Strategise

You’ve probably seen some of the elaborate strategies pro players use in their games. Knowing when to use what skill is a good start, but it’s certainly not enough. Coming up with creative uses or combinations of skills and characters is actually far more important – most players will have some understanding of when to use certain skills, but combining them in inventive ways is something you won’t necessarily find in every match.

Overwatch’s newest hero is a good example of this – Hammond ‘Wrecking Ball’ has a grappling hook that can be used to swing across the map. That much is pretty obvious, but you can also use that hook to swing around poles for as long as you’d like. In other words, if you somehow wanted to spend five minutes swinging around a pole, you could. That’s not exactly going to get you any kills, but it can help you stay out of sight or get behind or above an enemy. Similarly. You can combine that hook with another ability of his – Piledriver. That one has you slamming down and doing damage on impact, while also knocking the enemy into the air.

The point is, you have options, and there are probably some combinations and strategies that haven’t been explored yet – maybe you can be the one to perfect a whole new strategy?

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What’s the daily life of the pros?

Joining the ranks of the pros seems like an almost insurmountable obstacle, doesn’t it? There are so many wannabes, so much competition and so many hurdles to take. Becoming a pro seems like the ultimate goal here – once someone has joined a pro team, surely they’re living the high life?

After all, they’ve achieved their goal already, haven’t they? Not quite. The daily life of professional esports players is anything but a walk in the park – unless there happens to be a park as part of a map the players are training on.

Players do spend almost their entire day playing video games, that much is true. It’s not quite as simple or relaxed as playing games all day may sound though. The game or games that pros play aren’t casual, they’re practice.

Much like enjoying football isn’t quite the same as wanting to play it for nine hours per day, pro-gamers need a little bit more than just the desire to play games all day long. The breakdown of a typical day is a lot like that of a ‘regular’ athlete. Instead of late nights, pizza and energy drinks, it’s all about balanced meals, healthy exercise and a good sleep schedule as well as hours and hours and hours of practice.

A day in the life…

High-profile esports teams will have their athletes practice for more than 8 hours a day – less so if the players are also in education or have other jobs. That said, even in addition to that, they can expect to play 5+ hours, six days per week.

While that may sound less than glamorous, at least their work consists of playing video games all day right? Well, technically, yes. The way they play is different though – instead of just casually playing in matches, often these pro players will train one specific thing all day long.

overwatch new york team winning

Would you still enjoy Overwatch if you had to play, say, one specific move of Widowmaker over and over and over again, for hours on end? If your answer to that was yes, you may just be the material to do well as a pro, but even for them, it can be quite tough.

For what it’s worth, most pro players do enjoy the hard work that goes into the training and there is definitely a kind of satisfaction that can be found in the hard work that these guys do – it’s just not for everybody.

If you think it is for you though, you should definitely be sure of your decision before you embark on your path to becoming a pro. Think of the most obnoxious play you can think of and try repeating it a few dozen times in a row to see how you feel about it then.

One thing is certain though – whether you decide to pursue a pro career or not, never lose sight of why you started playing that specific game in the first place – it’s a pretty epic game!


Who are the best players to take an example from?

Making a name for one’s self is quite a literal part of becoming an esports pro. In addition to being a somewhat tortured pun, this also means that pro gamers are usually known by their handles rather than their real names. Making a complete list of all the great esports pros in the world would take a lifetime – there are countless extremely talented players out there. Here are some of the best-known and most accomplished ones out there:

1. SaeByeolBe – Jong-yeol Park, Overwatch

Tracer is perhaps the most well-known Overwatch hero, so it’s no surprise that the best Tracer-player in the world is almost as well-known. SayByeolBe is that player of course, and he is definitely one of the world’s top players. He was also selected as a South Korean competitor for the 2018 World Championship, along with five of his teammates from New York Excelsior. The South Korean player is one of the best the country has to offer – and that’s saying something!

2. Faker – Lee Sang-hyeok, League of Legends

faker-playing-esports

Faker is also nicknamed God. You just don’t get that sort of nickname without the skills to back it up. The South Korean player is largely considered to be the best League of Legends player of all time – this is backed up by his three World Championship wins, in 2013, 2015 and 2016. He has a huge following, countless fans and numerous wins and tournament titles to his name already.

3. Muma – Austin Wilmot, Overwatch

The world of esports is largely dominated by Asian players, especially South Koreans, so it’s nice to see American Austin Wilmot rise to the top. And rise to the top he did – he’s known as one of the top tanks in the league and an absolute fan favourite. With a history of playing Team Fortress 2, Muma is more than deserving of the fame he earned through his sick plays. Austin is also the first League player to come out as LGBT – well done, Austin.

4. Smeb – Song Kyung-ho, League of Legends

smeb

Another League player, Smeb is one of the few people that are even considered competition to Faker. Also one of the top players in the world, this laner was MVP of the Korean League twice, in 2015 and 2016. His only fault if you can call it that is that he keeps losing…to Faker that is. In world championship matches, Smeb’s team keeps losing to Faker’s when they face off.

5. Geguri – Kim Se-Yeon, Overwatch

geguri

Esports is a predominantly male field, that’s how it has always been…but it may not stay that way for much longer. While in the first official OWL match, not a single female player was under contract, this has since changed. Geguri has more than shown that her skills are ahead of many of her male peers. She was even in discussion as a participant for the South Korean World Championship team – no small feat given the amount of talent the country has to choose from. Only 19-years old, the tank specialist really made history when she joined the Shanghai Dragons.

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Mel

5-more-minutes gamer and aspiring esports journalist.

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