July 5th, 2011
In a sluggish economy, even pro gamers are feeling the sting. Prize money isn't what it used to be. But they're still making a living, playing the game, and things are looking up, says 27 year-old David "Zaccubus" Treacy of Team Dignitas. Here's what he had to say on the current state of pro gaming.
Alienware: How has pro gaming changed in the last 10 years?
David "Zaccubus" Treacy: Pro-gaming has always changed due to the nature of hardware, better graphics cards, and new games. But pro gaming has also been a lot like our economy: It grew rapidly over the last decade, then almost imploded on itself.
Fortunately, there are new mainstream sponsors investing in the sport, in addition to the usual hardware and gaming suspects. Companies like Coke, Pepsi, Subway, Adidas, etc.
What are some of the most heavily contested games and events these days?
Counter-Strike, Starcraft 2, Street Fighter, and DotA-like games such as Heroes of Newerth and League of Legends. All these games are huge in their own right and massively addictive to play and watch. As for gaming events, ESL Master, WCG, and MLG are the largest and most competitive.
In your opinion, what makes a great competitive game?
Tough one to answer as there are so many issues to consider. But I guess the main thing is balance -- That everyone is equal both in terms of luck and skill. Also, the game has to be fun and able to draw you back in for more.
What's the median income for pro gamers today?
Well, for a long time it wasn't waged based. Whatever you won was your yearly income. But now players can earn up to $30,000 a year, if not more with sponsorships.
Will live competitive gaming events ever make it big on U.S. television, like in South Korea?
Every TV show I've seen so far has been way too cheesy and not indicative of what pro gaming is about. Trying to squeeze an event into a 60 minute broadcast doesn't really work for gaming as it doesn't really work for tennis. But the latter is shown everywhere on TV.
Only recently, thanks to MLG, can we see what gaming events should look like: Great shoutcasting, well presented, and without the need to cheese it up for regular people to understand.
What advice — both encouraging and hard to swallow — would you give to aspiring pro gamers?
It's not easy to go pro. It takes time and if you don't pick the right games it could well be all for nothing as the games are always changing. For example, you could spend over two years mastering a certain game only to have it blown out of the water as no one is sponsoring it anymore. So pick wisely. Oh, and don't rage so much from losses. You only learn from your mistakes.