Anand KrishnaswamyAug 05, 2020 13:02:21 IST
In the world of professional gaming, players toil for hours each day raising their skills as far as possible, all in the hope of becoming the best. Still, the average retirement age among gamers remains below 30. In the last few years, the big bucks have become a part of gaming tournaments, with games such as Dota 2 boasting prize-pools going into the millions.
Every professional gamer starts with the dream of making it to the top and get their hands on these lucrative prize pools, but the sad truth is that most of them never succeed. Along with the young retirement age, another factor worth considering is that every game has an expiry date after which sponsors move to a newer and more successful game.
One only needs to look as far back as a few years, and we see that there existed games such as Heroes of Newerth (HONE). The game was extremely popular and a direct rival to one of today’s most cash-rich esports, Dota 2. However, the game is nothing but a part of history today. All the top players from HONE made their move into Dota 2 or another similar eSport.
This brings us to the question, should a player work so hard for a slim chance at success that may never occur and retire by the age of 30? Are they really left with no prospects or future to speak of once they retire?
The gaming industry has evolved over the past decade, and players are now left with far more career options after they retire. The most common post-retirement options for professional gamers are streaming, coaching, management roles in gaming organisations or working as analysts and commentators.
Streaming in recent years has become an extremely lucrative option for those who can garner a dedicated viewer base. Most professional players become heroes for their fans and when they retire, fans consider it a major loss to the community. Given the extreme loyalty that many fans display, gamers, during their time on competitive stage itself, begin to foster a career in streaming.
This helps them build their fanbase. In certain cases, such as that of Henrik 'AdmiralBulldog' Ahnberg, it is possible to have an equally successful post-retirement career. AdmiralBulldog is a former top-tier player from the world of Dota 2 who, after winning the most prestigious tournament of the game, known as ‘The International’ (TI) way back in 2013, has transitioned himself into one of the most popular streamers and personalities within the Dota 2 community. Today, he is no longer an active player; instead, he focusses on a career in streaming.
Coaching is a role that has a high demand in traditional sports. As the world of professional gaming and esports take a similar path, the need for coaches is becoming more apparent. Almost every team in the world of eSports today has a dedicated coach.
This remains true even within player-owned teams that are not backed under the banner of another organisation. These coaches are often players who have reached an age where they no longer possess the reflexes they had during their prime. However, their knowledge and understanding of the game have become sharper and as such are adept at analysing games and providing useful tips to players.
Most coaches hired by top teams are players who, during their time on the competitive stage, showed an exceptional understanding of the game. Even players who struggle to make it to the top can find themselves with coaching jobs to help younger players and possible future talents improve their skills in the game. There is also the option for players to hold private coaching sessions. Many fans of the game take the game very seriously and as such chose to avail the services of former professional players for private coaching sessions in a bid to improve their skills.
Gaming organisations are an extremely important part of the industry. These organisations hire top players and enable them to follow their passion. There are several major organisations today such as Evil Geniuses or Team Liquid that hire players for multiple different eSports.
The players backed by these organisations are some of the best talents in their respective games and it is common for them to win tournaments and be placed at the top of the leader boards. The organisations often help the players with fulfilling several duties; this includes providing them a coach as well as people to handle the logistics for the team. This allows the players to focus only on their game. Many players post retirement look for roles within such organisations, even players that do not make it to the top of the profession have a shot at being recruited for management or logistics roles within these organisations. In some cases, it is even possible that a player becomes a part-owner of an organisation by the time of their retirement.
Analysts and commentators are an integral part of any tournament in eSports. During the game, it is helpful for viewers to have an expert talking them through the game, helping them understand what the important factors are, and where they need to focus. Analysts are responsible for breaking down all the decisions taken within the game to understand why the players made certain decisions.
Analysts are hired for tournaments in eSports just like they are in traditional sports. They focus on the post-game analysis of the strategies involved and what possible strategies could have been employed instead. Both these jobs require a person to possess a great understanding of the game. As such, retired players are looked at very favourably for these jobs.
Outside of these standard post-retirement jobs there are a few other options for a gamer. It is possible for a gamer to move into a newer game with a smaller competitive circuit. This allows players to extend their careers on the competitive stage a little longer. New games, in many cases, require some time to fully establish themselves amongst the gaming community. So, if a well-known gamer shows willingness to try their hand at the game, companies are often very welcoming as it helps bring the fans of the specific player into their game.
Like with all fields that seem to force early retirement amongst its professionals, there are always some who defy logic and can continue at the highest levels of their profession well beyond their contemporaries.
The two most notable examples that come to mind in this regard are Clinton 'Fear' Loomis and Patrik 'f0rest' Lindberg. Both these players have reached the age of 32 and are still active within their eSport. Fear within the world of Dota 2 has for many years now held the nickname of ‘Old man Dota’. f0rest on the other hand is one of the most successful players within the world of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) and despite his relatively advanced age, has shown no signs of a cognitive decline.
These examples help us understand that early retirement is not set in stone for the world of eSports. If one can maintain a high standard of gameplay, it is possible to keep extending his/her career. With all these options available to gamers, the question worth asking today is, why are we still living in a world of ‘Get big, burn out, retire young’?
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