So you want to go pro? Part 1

Originally posted November 11, 2010. Re-posting and Featuring due to how many times people ask me about this!

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Pretty much every day I get the same question via twitter, youtube, email, formspring, etc. and that question is “How do I become a pro gamer?”. Well, it doesn’t happen overnight, it’s not easy, and you most likely should NOT quit your day job, but here’s some tips on how to pursue competitive gaming as a career.

For starters…

Pick the game or games you want to focus on and look for online for local tournaments for those games. If you play Super Street Fighter then a good place to find tournaments is SF4Answers.com and also Shoryuken.com (but don’t think about posting in any threads there… just look at the tournament thread) If you’re into Tekken SDTekken.com is a good site for you. For Guitar Hero and Rock Band you’ll find that Scorehero.com and RockBand.Scorehero.com have really helpful tournament threads. If you’re into FPS games like Call of Duty or Gears of War then you’ll want to check out MLG’s MajorLeagueGaming.com for online tournaments and for tournament dates around the US. Basically your best bet for finding tournaments is to go to the official game website forum although googling for tournaments and searching on craigslist is also a good way to find some tournaments that weren’t well promoted but have some pretty good prizes if you’re good at sifting through posts.

Every pro gamer had to get their start SOMEWHERE…

Don’t listen to other people who try to discredit you for winning many local tournaments or tournaments that aren’t considered “elite” to some. If you win a tournament at PAX with 300+ entrants you have officially won a tournament with more people in it than all of WCG for the entire year. Sometimes these “smaller” or “non notable” tournaments as some will call them, have the most amount of participants, the best prizes, and just as much tough competition as any other large scale tournament. Not everyone can afford to fly out to every MLG, EVO or WCG event so sometimes these events like PAX are cheaper and more accessible, therefore you get more entrants especially since once you pay for an event ticket all tournaments have free entry. You can’t be a pro without winning some tournaments, so be proud of every tournament you win no matter how big or small. They didn’t GIVE you the prize, you had to work for it… so give yourself some props.

Also, this should be something you do in your spare time, nights and weekends. Do NOT quit your day job to start gaming competitively. It’s not necessary right away. Most pro gamers do still have some sort of day job even if it’s just to help cover the cost of the pro gaming endeavors and to pay a bill or two, and never… I repeat… NEVER quit school to pursue pro gaming. I would NEVER recommend this to anyone. Your education is important!

While it may seem easy to say, “well I’ll have more time to practice” it’s not necessary to dedicate 70 hours a week to gaming to go pro. I started my pro gaming career while doing marketing work 3-4 days a week and continued it while working 40-60 hours a week doing QA testing. The point of starting off locally is so that competing does not interfere with your work schedule and you don’t waste as much money on competing right off the bat. The goal is to spend little money and earn a lot while gaining experience to take your gaming career to the next level.

Practice Practice Practice!…

As Fatal1ty himself says, practicing is important. You can’t just say “I want to be a pro gamer” and magically be one. You have to practice your ass off. If you know an important event is coming up you should try to dedicate as much time as possible to practicing so that you can place well at the tournament. If you are focusing on one or two games you’ll have to put down all of your “for fun” games for the month or so preceding the tournament to make sure you’re up to par since you’ll be going up against the best of the best at these bigger tournaments. Set up practice sessions with your friends every Tuesday night for example to make practice both fun and competitive, because you know you’d hear it for days if you lost to your best friend! If you don’t have friends who play the same games as you going to a LAN Center or an Arcade is also a good option if it’s available to you.

Make sure to play with some players who are better than you if possible. While it’s fun to own scrubs all day long, you won’t get any better beating people who don’t know any better. Even if you get your ass handed to you by RagingRavenSRK 30 games in a row, when you FINALLY see his pattern and kill him on game 31, you realize you are learning how to fight against a top level player that has taken out hundreds of other competitors so playing against someone with only half of his skill will seem like a piece of cake. On top of learning how to play with the big dogs you’ll also learn a trick or two if they’re willing to share their secrets, and many times they will if you ask nicely. By playing with pros you can learn good Halo sniping spots, learn the best star paths on Guitar Hero or learn a good combo or two in Super Street Fighter or Tekken. No matter how good you think you are, there is always someone out there who is better and there is always something more you can learn.

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Stepping up your game…

When you don’t think you can get any better and you feel like you’re just burning yourself out on practicing take a break and research techniques. For Guitar Hero and Rock Band you can improve your scores to get on top of the leaderboards by researching Star Paths and Overdrive Paths on Scorehero.com‘s forums or learning new hand positions/ techniques for nailing solos from YouTube videos. For Street Fighter you can learn new combos by watching youtube videos of top players who use your character vs your trouble characters as well as asking specific questions to the oh so knowledgeable crew on SF4answers.com For most people the reason why you keep failing at the same spot or keep being beaten by the same character is usually because of muscle memory. You’re obviously doing something wrong but you haven’t figured out what it is yet, so stop doing it and figure out what the problem is. On top of watching others doing it the right way, it sometimes helps to record your matches and watch them back after you’re done gaming to see where you went wrong and think about how to fix it. A good device to use is the AverMedia Game Capture HD. On top of using it for analyzing what you did wrong, it’s also good for uploading High Quality videos to your YouTube account.

Take it to the next level…

If you start dominating online and your local scene it’s probably a good sign that you’re good enough to move onto the next level. Save up any profit that you make from your local tournaments so that you can put that toward traveling to a larger tournament such as an MLG event, EVO, Devastation, Iron Man of Gaming, etc. Your average cost for attending a tournament of a larger scale will be anywhere from $500-$1,000 depending on how far away from the tournament you live, your method of transportation, hotel choice, etc. The entry fee for most tournaments alone will be anywhere from $10-$50 or so, and that is usually the cheapest part of competing on a large scale. Carpooling and sharing a hotel with teammates or friends is definitely the best way to ensure you can make it to important events. You should try to attend at least 2 major events per year if you are taking this seriously. While winning a bunch of little tournaments is definitely respectable, if you want a chance to be picked up by a team you have to get yourself to the major events that the team managers will be at.

Be professional!…

You can still have fun at events but it’s best to remain professional both at events and online. It’s great to do social networking on myspace and facebook and twitter, but don’t use those social networks to insult others or bad mouth the gaming community, instead use it to make new connections and spread the news about your latest accomplishments. You never know who is following you on twitter so your reputation could be negatively affected if all companies see is you bad mouthing others or constantly complaining.

Use your social networks to follow gaming teams you’re interested in and other pro gamers who play the games you play. You never know, some day a team could follow you on twitter, see one of your YouTube videos and offer you a spot on their team. I’ve had several teams contact me because they’ve followed my progress on twitter and facebook. I was surprised when I went to a SF4 tournament and Jason Lake (Manager of Team compLexity) introduced himself to me saying he followed my gaming progress on twitter. Imagine how bad it would have looked to him if I had spent all my time on twitter bashing other players.

Join a team…

While joining a larger salary paying team is the goal, it doesn’t hurt to join a smaller team to get some experience. Teams like the PMS/H2O clans are pretty easy to get into, they have a couple sponsors and they sometimes cover expenses such as entry fees to events. Applying to be a Frag Doll Cadette is an option for female gamers that will help get you into events (usually all expenses paid) and will also help get you some experience with doing game demonstrations in front of large groups, speaking on camera and they also support competitive gaming by throwing their own tournaments with the Frag Dolls and Cadettes which will help you to gain more experience as well.

Check out the teams that are known for having exceptional players for the game that you play and see if they’re taking applications for joining the team. Don’t think that you can go to the MoB Godfather saying “I’m awesome at games you should put me on your team” though, instead type up a gaming resume and prepare a cover letter saying why you think you’re a good fit for the team and talk about how you can help each other. Go about applying to a team the same way as applying to a job. The bigger the team, the harder it is to join and the more impressive your resume will have to be for them to consider you, but don’t give up! If you are trying to be on a team like MoB for example, they may not want you for this gaming season but it may not be because of your skills, it may be because the slot(s) for that game are full and they need to wait for a contract to expire or for more funds to accept another player, so keep up your gaming and keep in touch with people from that team.

To avoid overloading everyone with information I’m breaking this down into Parts so expect a Part 2 and possibly Part 3 later on. I’ll keep posting “So you want to go pro?” blogs as long as people are still curious about it and asking questions about it. Is there something that you want to know about Pro Gaming and the process of getting your name out there? Leave a comment below and I’ll touch base on it in the next post. Part 2 is already written but I can add to it or post your answers in Part 3 if needed. Going Pro is not easy, but it is a lot easier once you have some sort of direction or know how someone else went about it so I’ll try to help as much as I can. Thanks for reading!

READ PART 2 HERE!


2 Comments

  1. Matt November 12, 2010 3:16 pm 

    Fantastic article. Linking out to this from our site. Stay in touch!

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