Becoming a professional gamer is often on a list of dream careers for people who love games and show a talent for the form. But that dream is often a complicated one — with only a small percentage of players making the cut to “professional” status, and of those only a handful achieving something resembling a long-term career. Still, the prospect of doing a job that you love has got many people wondering what the outlook is like for someone wanting to take a chance in the world of eSports.
Like any professional endeavor, there is a question as to whether innate talent or hard work matters more in gaining professional achievement –– but when looking at those who have accomplished big results across a range of fields it would seem that whatever the role of talent, it is often trumped by sheer hard work and practice.
Indeed, the old adage that “practice” is the way to get to Carnegie Hall isn’t just old-fashioned advice: Journalist Malcolm Gladwell has suggested through his research that there is something called the “10,000 Hour Rule,” of which he believes there is a requisite amount of work — about 10,000 hours — that it takes for someone to master a task. It’s the kind of time commitment, reduced of course if you’ve been gaming for many years, but intimidating nonetheless, that might make you stop to think about the potential downsides of this career track.
When something you love becomes something you have to do, many find that passion is quick to leave. It’s the sort of curse of having too much of a good thing: Many of us find that our favorite activities are a form of play and a relief from the stress of work. When that relief becomes a form of stress it can become a frustrating experience.
So, like the Beatles, who played back-to-back sets in small clubs for hours upon hours and years upon years — and through this practice became extremely successful — Gladwell might suggest that becoming a professional gamer is within the grasp of those who would seek out its possibilities as well as grueling challenges, with the caveat that the hours and dedication one would have to put in are immense and often lacking in rewards.
There’s also the downside of job security as a professional gamer: when you’re self-employed, even as a professional, the lack of benefits (or even a guarantee of work months down the line) creates a “feast or famine” environment, in which one can be reaping financial rewards one month and have a steady stream of income dry up the next. For these reasons, another old saying, “Don’t quit your day job,” is one way of having the sort of reliability of income that a self-employed gamer might not.
In this way, learning tasks that build on skills used in gaming — an understanding of how computing, coding and design works, for example — can be a few extra arrows in a professional gamer’s quiver that will allow them to bring in extra income when times are lean.
So for these reasons, educating yourself about the benefits and downsides of being a professional gamer — and knowing the kind of sacrifices that you’ll have to make — is a key component in putting your foot in the professional water, so to speak. Whatever you do, remember that the values of hard work and honesty will always be of help.