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Professional Gamer: A Definition

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Posted by: Dustin Steiner

What is a pro gamer anyway?

The term professional gamer gets tossed around a lot these days. But what exactly does it mean? Is it being paid to play video games? Traveling all over the world to compete in tournaments? Being adored by millions of gamers all around the internet? These things are certainly part of it, but mostly being a professional gamer is all about the attitude and approach to gaming.

The Attitude

Being a “Professional Gamer” takes more than just attending tournaments – indeed, it’s all about the attitude you take when gaming and conducting yourself among the community. The Pro should be an active voice in their game’s community helping to provide a number of services to less skilled players in the community. Whether this is through commentating matches or theorycrafting on new strategies or even just streaming your own practice matches is irrelevant – as long as it helps your game’s community grow in some way.

The Pro Gamer is also a boon to developers as they are able to see their game being played at an extremely high level – thus being able to fix imbalances in the game that only a Pro would see. A good example of this at work would be after EVO 2011, Capcom started work on a balance patch for Super Street Fighter 4 Arcade Edition that would hopefully fix the high representation and win rate of Yun players.

Photobucket Greg ‘IdrA’ Fields – the “bad boy” of eSports

The Pro Gamer also conducts him or herself in a manner that shines positively on their game, thus attracting sponsors and new gamers – of course, there are notable exceptions to this, such as Greg ‘IdrA’ Fields, who is notable these days for simply being the “Bad Boy” of eSports. This stems from his flippant attitude during interviews and tactless critiques of Blizzard, other players and their playstyles. A good example of a Pro that acts in such a manner would be Liquid’Sheth – he is always happy to be competing, explains things very well on his stream so a newcomer can understand his strategy, and is constantly interacting with the community.

Photobucket Liquid’Sheth – a great example of Pro with great sportsmanship

One of the biggest parts of being a Pro Gamer is not whining about a change or game mechanic you don’t like. Patch notes drop all the time that may change your favorite character or race – most players immediately head to the forums and either whine to the community at large or flame the developers, saying that they have no idea how to balance a game, etc. But the Pro Gamer adapts. He or she finds new ways to win in a changing environment. Or, if they do complain, they do it in such a manner that explains exactly why the change is a bad one, and always offers an alternative that may work slightly better, another part of the boon that developers experience by having Pro Gamers as a resource.

The Approach

While the attitude of the professional gamer is extremely important, you simply will not get to the level of Pro without a different type of approach to gaming altogether.

Photobucket Mad Catz Fightstick, essential gear for the pro fighting gamer

First off, without the proper gear, a pro gamer is nothing. While this isn’t to say that gaming on a professional level is impossible with say, stock controllers or factory grade mouse/keyboard setups, it certainly sets you at a significant disadvantage. For example, playing with a mouse with less than 4800 dpi makes precision aiming in FPS much, much harder. Playing with better gear provides for a more solid win/loss ratio and a better interpretation of your natural skills in game, as your hardware no longer bottle necks your skill cap.

Another solid, and perhaps the best, example of this is in fighting games. Most professional fighting gamers agree that using a fightstick significantly helps with complex inputs and cuts down on accidental inputs. There are a few exceptions to the rule with fightsticks, as players like Gamerbee – who is widely known as a gamepad player – have shown.

Professional gamers set themselves apart from their casual brethren by the level of training and playtime that they log. Take Professional Starcraft 2 players in Korea as an example – these guys train for 8 to 10 hours a day. They live in houses with their teams specifically to be able to practice at any time, discuss strategies – literally living, breathing their game. It’s this mentality that sets Pros apart – treating games as a career, always striving to better their play through any means necessary.

Part of this training is always seeking out those who are better than you – they show you flaws in your play that you may not see by just using your typical strategy that beats inferior players. In this way, your playstyle evolves to include new tricks, and thus you don’t stagnate as a player. Having a large repertoire of strategies, regardless of the game you play is extremely important. I liken this to having a playbook in football – if you just keep running the same play over and over again, eventually the defense is going to pick up on the strategy and be in just the right place at the right time.

The last part of the approach of a Pro Gamer is he or she develops something like immunity to pressure – being able to perform precision moves and strategies in front of crowds of thousands, and indeed the millions of fans around the world. An amateur or even a semi-professional when thrown into such a setting for the first time, even if they are extremely skilled, is likely to choke under pressure knowing that so many people are watching. In this way, pro gamers are very similar to those skilled in public speaking – they have ways of blocking out the audience and simply going about business as usual.

Bringing it all together
The tl;dr version? Being a pro gamer is about much more than just being paid to play video games. It’s about conducting yourself in such a manner that helps the growth of your respective community, always striving to better yourself and your play through any means necessary and being an active participant in your respective community, providing feedback that developers need to balance games at a competitive level.

Dustin Steiner is Gamezone’s eSports Correspondent! Follow him on Twitter @SteinerDustin

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