The Devil Plays Protoss: Going Pro

BY Andrew Miesner / July 18, 2011

The Devil Plays Protoss: Going Pro

by Jacqueline Geller

Any opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of compLexity Gaming or its parent company.

I love reading the blogs on Team Liquid. It’s a bit of a guilty pleasure. I browse the recent topics on a daily basis and reply once in a while when something piques my interest.

A popular thread topic seen time and time again is posted by young SC2 players hoping to go pro and who are unsure how to win the support of their parents.

I am not a professional gamer.

I never will be.

But I am a young woman who has had her own career issues with her parents and who has some solid advice for hopeful pros. This is not tried and true advice or a magical formula, but the following are things to consider and things to get you thinking which can help you decide whether or not you want to start on the epic pro gamer journey.

My dad is in his early sixties and my mother is in her late fifties. My father comes from a generation where you attend university for a said degree and then start a career in said field. In my dad’s case, said degree and said field is finance, and I do think that it has been hard for him to see me not follow a similar career path. I do have a university degree, but it did not come with an automatic job title like a law degree, a medical degree, an engineering degree, etc. Careers paths today are not linear, and it is difficult for older generations to accept this. My mom even admits that is hard for her generation to think outside of the career box. There is a good chance that your parents come from a similar mindset, and it is important to understand their point of view to help them understand your point of view.

To begin with, you need to be realistic about your chances of being a professional gamer. It’s just like any lucrative profession. If you are struggling at biology, there isn’t much of a chance that you’ll make a stellar surgeon. My first “The Devil Plays Protoss” article was on finding your niche within the gaming community. Perhaps being a pro gamer is not for you, and this is something you need to figure out before you start focusing too much valuable time and energy into training. Although there is always room for improvement, if you are a Gold League player who has been struggling on the ladder for months, there isn’t much of a chance of you being able to make it as a professional. It is simply not good enough to be good, you need to be the best. Of course, being a professional gamer sounds much more fun and glamorous than being an eSports journalist, but you need to identify what works for you and what is realistic for your skill set.

Of course, being a professional gamer sounds much more fun and glamorous than being an eSports journalist, but you need to identify what works for you and what is realistic for your skill set.

One thing that worries parents is the lack of transferable skills that being a gamer offers. This is something that you might not recognize in high school while you’re focused on the present. Unlike other roles in the eSports industry, a pro gamer has little to transfer to other jobs or industries. If you are a graphic designer working in eSports and suddenly professional gaming stops existing, you can easily take your skills elsewhere. Being a professional gamer will give you incredible life experiences and hopefully enough of an income to pay the bills, but at the end of the day, it’s not going to be the best job to have on your resume to help with future careers. Having a back up plan and a way to work on other skill sets while being a pro gamer can be helpful in ensuring that even if the pro gamer thing doesn’t work out, you have a fallback plan.

Professional gaming is just like any other professional sport: many try and few will succeed. Think about how many people play video games and how many people can make a living off being a professional gamer. It also gets harder to continue being a pro as you get older which is something that parents think about even if you do not. Although Aleksey “White-Ra” Krupnyk has proven that you can be a pro gamer past the imaginary 30 year old expiry date, you have to remember that White-Ra is the exception, not the rule. Do not focus on the exceptions, focus on the rules because exceptions typically lead to heartbreak. The reason for fewer older players, I would guess, has more to do with lifestyle than skill expiration compared to other sports, though. Athletes wear their bodies down to the point of no longer having the physical fitness to keep up with younger athletes. Gaming is an entirely different beast, but the lifestyle might get tiring as you get older. At a certain point, pro gamers must want to settle down or have families, and I cannot imagine trying to juggle a family, mortgage, etc. while living the pro gamer lifestyle. It can be done, but I’m sure it’s not for everyone.

If after all the facts, you’ve decided that you want to be a professional gamer, what’s the next step? My next recommended step in becoming a professional gamer is to have a plan with goals and deadlines. Manuel “Grubby” Schenkhuizen once wrote a blog post about becoming a professional gamer and how he approached the subject with his parents. One thing that he did was give himself a deadline to see what he could do with professional gaming, but he told himself and his parents that he would go back to school if things didn‘t work out. We all know how that ended up, but again, Grubby is the exception, not the rule.

When you’ve decided that you want to tell your parents about your pro gaming aspirations, start slow. If you drop the bomb on your parents that you want to be a pro gamer suddenly, it will sound a lot like “I WANT TO BE A FIRETRUCK!!” The idea of a professional gamer, as real as it is to us, is a silly concept to older generations. If you introduce the idea of competitive and professional gaming slowly, they will be more included to be enthusiastic about the idea as it grows on them. Tell them you’re passionate about the game. Tell them about your tournament successes. If they know you’re training for competitions, doing well at competitions and winning money from competitions, they might see gaming in a more serious way than just a hobby. Start out slow and let them learn about the gaming community.

Impress your parents by finding a job.

A big way to win parents over is to have a life outside of gaming. A part-time job or part-time studies while you focus on gaming could do wonders for your relationship with your parents. In the time that you’ve given yourself to make a name for yourself in the gaming community, it will be important to train hard and compete as often as possible. That being said, it would also be beneficial for yourself to do something other than gaming if you’re not on a professional team and earning decent money. If you’re living on your own, it is important that you’re making enough to support yourself. If you’re living with your parents, it will help them be more supportive if you’re doing something like working part-time or taking a class or two. It may not seem like oodles of fun to work 16 hours per week at the local coffee shop, but it will give you a bit of spending money, responsibilities and freedom which will impress the parents.

If you do want to be a pro gamer and are having issues winning over the support of your parents, approach them maturely. Of course, you could just say ’screw them,’ but everything is easy with a good support network. Trust me, I know this. Talk to your parents about what your goals and deadlines are for being a professional gamer, and talk to them about what your plan is if pro gaming doesn’t work out. If you’re open about your passion about gaming and teach them a bit about the industry, you’d be surprised at how they respond. I never thought that my parents would be interested in the SC2 community, but they take an interest in what I tell them about it because I’m excited about it. If you’re willing to give your parents something that they want, like you to work a part-time job or to take a university class, it will help make supporting you easier.

The good news is that unsupportive parents in the professional gaming industry is most likely a short term problem. As eSports develops, I see no reason as to why it will not develop like any other sport. Competitive gaming will have its own armies of Starcraft moms and Halo dads not unlike the soccer moms and hockey dads of today. Parents will start their children’s professional gaming careers off early: teaching their children RTS games at a young age, driving them to gaming practice every Tuesday and Thursday and cheering them on at every Under 13, 15, 17 and 20 LAN event possible. Parents will brag to their friends of how their child will be signed by a pro team straight out of high school and how their child will one day win MLG.

As stated previously, I am no professional gamer, but I do have sound advice.

Pro gamers, how does my advice weigh in? Any words of wisdom of your own to pass along?


About the Author – Jacqueline Geller

After years of playing World of Warcraft, a friend introduced Jacqueline to Starcraft early last year. Jacqueline’s relationship with Starcraft started out slowly: a handful of casual dates, a little bit of flirting but nothing serious. She took her relationship with the game to the next level after BlizzCon 2010 where she experienced eSports magic first-hand and realized that Starcraft was the one. Despite being a mediocre player, she has been clambering the ladder at a glacial pace and has spent more time watching Starcraft online than she’d like to admit. In March, Jacqueline made the leap from eSports fan to eSports professional when she was hired by the Handsome Nerd as their Art Director, combining her design skills with her love of Starcraft. Since its start in April, Jacqueline has been a contributing writer for the North American Star League, writing coverage for Division 1. Offline, Jacqueline is a bookworm, a runner, a freeride snowboarder and has a Human Ecology degree with a Clothing and Textiles major.

View Jacqueline’s profile here.
Visit @jacquelinesg on Twitter