“My son wants to be a pro-gamer. Help!” A guide for distressed parents

Not so long ago, I had a short discussion with a worried dad. His son aspired to be a professional gamer on his favorite game, League of Legends, but the father was very worried about the implications of such an ambition. One thing I noticed is how little he knew about the e-sports industry and the opportunities one gets when reaching the top. The gamer’s nerdy and awkward stigma still stands, although most professional players today have strict schedules and obligations including eating well, staying in shape, playing at fixed times and answering to their manager. As such, professional gamers are more often than not good looking, smart and well perceived by their community.

To help you make the right choice and support your kid, here are a few things you may want to know if your he/she wants to dedicate his career to playing video games:

Understand the game he plays

Each game has its own specifications, skill rating, and requirements. Among the popular games of the moment, you’ll find Real Time Strategy games (RTS) such as Starcraft2, Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas (MOBAs) such as League of Legends and Dota 2 and First Person Shooters (FPS) with popular titles being CS:GO, Overwatch and Call of Duty.

You need to understand how the game works. What the goal is, and how deeply the strategy goes — including how he (or she) fits into this strategy. Is he the solid team leader, carrying his team through the battle? Is he the cunning assassin, outplaying his opponent with a mixture of trickery and execution speed? Is he the wise support player, that saves his overconfident teammates’ souls when they get greedy?

You also have to know how good he currently is at the game. For most games, you can find the skill rating system online or in the game by checking with him, and see how well he stands out — he needs to be in the highest end of players with his regular playing schedule when committing full time. For example on League of Legend that would be in Master or Challenger leagues; Overwatch would be a rank 3500+; CS:GO would be Supreme Master or Global Elite. The vast majority of pro-players started by reaching a very high level while studying or working in the daytime, and only when realizing they had an incredible potential did they decide to go pro.

Commitment is not enough to turn anyone into a professional player, just like in classic sports. A lot of players at lower skill level play thousands of games without ever improving. He needs to have a predisposition to being good, and knowing how to deal with the implications of having a team.

For team based games, he should already be comfortable playing with mates and taking on challenges, such as online tournaments. Not having a close circle of players he already competes with should trigger an alarm regarding his ability to blend in an already established professional team.

Observe his behavior & mentality

Like in most domains in life, improving is mostly in the mindset. In team games mostly, you’ll find two types of people: the ‘blaming’ player and the ‘self-reflective’ one.

The former kind consistently shifts the responsibility of any mistake or losses to their team. Although it can sometimes happen that you’re particularly upset with specific players, consistently blaming others often distracts one from reflecting on how to improve.

The latter type will usually acknowledge their defeat but the first thought that comes to their mind will be ‘How could I have played better and led us to victory despite the issues we were facing?’. These are the ones that end up professional, because they’ll never look for excuses. They’ll keep working hard, even if they get unlucky, even if the odds are against them. And this is the mindset your teenager needs to have when approaching the game. If he doesn’t have this approach yet, help him through the thought process he should adopt if he wants to reach the top.

Make a deal

Giving him more space to commit big time must be a moral contract. What most younger players achieve to negotiate usually is ‘Once I’ll get my diploma I’ll get a 1 year shot at integrating a professional team, and will go back to studying/working if I don’t succeed’. This works well because you established a time frame and a goal, which if not reached will lead to a natural decision to return to a more ‘classic’ career; and working in e-sports after graduating is not out of reach: one of the best players at Blizzard’s latest game, Overwatch, first worked behind the scenes in the e-sports industry before getting so much drive from playing that he committed to become a pro.

Most ex-pros end up going back to studies or doing what they love in the gaming industry as they perfectly understand when they’re no longer good enough to stay at the top. French Starcraft2 star Ilyes “Stephano” Satouri played professionally for 3 years, earning several titles and close to a 7 figures digit in cash from prizes, sponsorship and streaming before going back to university.

Keep in mind that most competitive players aren’t competitive just in games, they’re winners in life too. Major failures or setbacks will usually lead them to drastically improve or abandon and give a dedicated shot at something else.

Be supportive but realistic

If it’s getting serious, you have to be their first fans. Luckily for him, we’re entering an era where players & streamers are trending and very popular among their young peers.

Nonetheless, online games are a very competitive domain. Because it’s so easy to get your hands on a keyboard nowadays, you need to stand out among millions of players with similar dreams to get a shot at integrating a professional team.

As such, even being just on the edge of the absolute best and practicing hard may not prove successful. It can be a question of not being good enough, not finding the right teammates, or simply being unlucky at decisive times between a successful career or not enough achieved to be sponsored. Your son may not succeed, in which case just like for anything else in life it is your job to provide support and put him back on the right track to be successful in another domain.

Make sure he understands what being a ‘pro-gamer’ implies

As I said above, playing at a higher level implies that you’ll have a manager, a coach, and will need to stick to a tight schedule, working out, stress and ambitious goals. This is far away from the routine of waking up at noon and playing all day long stuffing chips into your mouth when you get hungry- not everybody is fit to transitioning lifestyles so drastically.

It also implies that sometimes, when you don’t wan’t to play, you’ll have to keep playing. You will be required to work . You will be asked to play the role you don’t necessarily love the most for the well being of the team, and if you’re not good enough, you may be ditched.

Tremendous pressure comes with high level gaming. It implies flying to many countries to compete in different tournaments, being a public figure and dealing with fans while staying at the highest level to keep your seat in the team.

Pro players can sometimes integrate ‘gaming houses’ (sharing a flat with their teammates to improve) that have been received differently according to the players experiencing it. It proved successful for most, but some couldn’t withstand the pressure and sacrifices it implied — in terms of social life and everyday routine. Make sure he thinks twice and is mentally ready before agreeing to such a deal.

To conclude,

I’ll strongly invite you to learn as much as you can about gaming. Visit websites discussing news & tournaments; read about his favorite teams and follow him to a local state or nationwide championship; watch tournaments’ live streams with him to grasp how professional e-sports are getting: playing the finals in sold out stadiums, with hundreds of thousands of viewers online, million dollar cash prizes, and an army of casters and entertainment professionals committed to the event. And most of all: keep an open mind — this new world is full of opportunities.