In 2013, The USA officially recognised E-Sports tournament and battle royale players as ‘pro-athletes’ giving them entry to the country with a P-1 professional player visa as an ‘individual athlete’. This goes to show that E-Sports players are both professional and athletes in their game. Like other sports, E-Sports players train 10-12 hours a day while fans were already watching Twitch streams for an average of 3 hours.
There are a number of things needed to understand the development of skills to reach this level.
- Know the jargon
- Practising with AI and Bots daily.
- Play and Learn Together – winning and losing together generates a dialogue
- Watch the professionals, analyse their play styles not their revenue streams
- Find the best tricks and tips – know the pressure points, know the plays, know the hero
- Learn the map, know the right positioning and punish teams who don’t.
- Tune your settings for better performance with the gear you have – not whine about what you don’t have
- Play the game you enjoy and play best – be open to other games, but master your own
- Be a mindful, pleasant player people want to play with – toxic players don’t win enough to become professional.
- Get enough rest, put fuel in the tank – a healthy screen-time and lifestyle needs a new routine and to taken as seriously as the game you’re playing.
There is no doubt that professional players have a skill set that allows them to react, preduct and move in the game better than casual players. However, natural skill in any sport isn’t enough to access the top – even if the game is an all consuming passion. Most players are there to have fun and the game mechanic is working all the time to keep them in the game – just at the edge of what they can do. Professional players break out of this game-induced ‘fun’ cycle and allocate their time to a far more pragmatic and analytic approach, taking in this list of facets and reflecting on which they need to focus on to find that performance boost. Whether they are playing in a team or solo, there is a goal-driven purpose to the time they are spending in the game.
This seems the major challenge in shifting from casual player (which some talent) to professional – managing time and keeping note of any factor which has improved their game. This is hard when playing casual, as the motivation of other team members is perhaps not to become a professional player. At times people in games are there to have fun – or even find that fun – throwing the match – or playing a smurf account just for their own entertainment. This is a big problem in online games – it is hard to know what is motivating other players as the match-making is made by the system. On the other hand two or three ‘stack’ parties might have one good player who is carrying or coaching the others – so in effect, you’re left playing in a team of 2 or 3, while the stack is off in it’s on party-chat, doing what it wants with no thought about the goals of the rest of the team.
This all means that the pathway to professional player requires a rhobust, performance based approach wherein players can develop their skills in a controlled environment which limits the randomness of home-solo play. Playing with friends is great, but there’s no guarantee that the friends are good players. Because we like our friends, we will be more focused on fun than performance – as we don’t want to be harsh and lose social capital with people we spend time with regularly. On the other hand, we don’t have any relationship with match-making. We might, over time, play with the same ‘randoms’, but have no personal relationship with them. This means the overall game-play experience is one of a surface-level, temporary engagement, which doesn’t allow players to have those deeper conversations about improvement. We know that most of the learning (in anything) happens after the event – in the conversations and reflections we have about what just happened. Even in a school-lesson, it’s those lessons that kids talk about after, which will have the most benefit and impact – regardless of the teacher’s intention for the class.
It’s not possible (or desirable) to play 10-12 hours of E-Sports in High School. The key word there is play. The majority of after school play is geared towards socialising with friends (the digital-connections which have happened along side the digital-society) and having fun – at you own point of interest.
74% of teens in Australia access their media content via a tablet and about the same own a mobile phone. This means we have generation which doesn’t want to watch programmed TV and believes that rich-media content is primarly an ‘on demand’ experience. Kids spend 12 hours a week doing this according to recent research. If we then add the 1:1 school experience, many kids are spending over 60 hours a week – consuming content on demand. It’s hardly a shock that kids are double-tabbing classes, pretending to be accessing the LMS for school work, while watching videos in the other.
E-Sports becomes a way to meet the students at their point of interest, create a career pathway but also to use thier ‘on demand’ media time to something more than personal-media-consumption. In a way, the routines needed to be a pro-player can also be seen as a manifesto for all digital-demand media experiences – whether learning History or Maths. It’ just needs a small amount of context-shift to re-write this 10 point list to apply to anything kids are trying to be professional at.