The professional practices his or her craft day in, day out. For some, the motivation might stem from a fear of doing anything else with their time, as identities become wound tightly to the act. For others, the craft itself might be an addiction, or an avenue for a feeling of self-worth. In all cases, to be such a professional, who sacrifices all of the time and energy allowed within a day for the sake of one art or another, is a romanticized vocation.
That is, until you consider this kind of lifestyle for someone who spends these daily resources on gaming. An hour a day on a player’s favorite video game is considered a relatively normal amount of time to spend on a hobby, but eight hours a day or more would be, should be, considered a detriment to the player’s health and well being, both mental and physical.
This is a stark contrast of a summary when drawn next to a student of a traditional sport, for example, who would be praised as disciplined, fit, and a smart investor in his or her future for spending eight hours a day honing their skills in something society already deems as valuable.
This distinction might sound tired and of a bygone era, but the reality is that the difference in the way society treats a devout athlete and a devote gamer isn’t without its due causes.
Before continuing, understand this: both kinds of sports, traditional and video gaming, require the same amount of discipline to hone mastery over. Yes, becoming the best League of Legends player in North America requires the same amount of discipline as would becoming the best Football player in North America. Most people scoff at that idea as they imagine themselves playing their favorite game while thinking “I was pretty good, and I can do that all day!” while understanding perfectly well that they couldn’t last 5 seconds in the NFL without breaking a bone.
Play vs. Practice
Here’s an important fact for you: playing an esport game isn’t the same as practicing an esport game much in the same way playing on a Sunday league soccer team isn’t the same as practicing soccer. Yes, you might get better over time in both situations, but the former examples aren’t practice. Practice is intentional, isolated, and very often unfun. Its a method in which you can hone specific skills within a skill. Playing a game of League isn’t the same as practicing your animation cancels for three hours to make sure they’re that much closer to perfect when you do play the game.
The professional soccer player doesn’t practice by playing soccer. The professional soccer player practices by running an ungodly amount of distance everyday, taking repetitive touches, and honing specific techniques on the ball. Playing the game properly is a result of this effort taken well before hand.
So, it could be said that, despite the amount of people who play or have played video games, very few have practiced them. And its this kind of behavior that one has to commit to when becoming a professional in anything.
So what does any of this have to do with the way society views gaming as a whole? Well, despite the nature of practice and its requirement in all competitions, gaming or not, video games are designed to require no discipline to sit down and play. In fact, they require less of it. And while the line between practice and play in traditional sports is marked clearly, its blurred in the realm of gaming.
In short, traditional sports can only be practiced and played for as long as the body will allow. They strengthen the body, and subsequently aid the mind. Collectively, consistent practice of these sports yield long term benefits, regardless of how successful the athlete becomes in the end game.
Conversely, video games yield no such rewards, and can be practiced/played for as long as a player’s sleep need allow. The body sits in the same position for hours, the eyes stare at the screen day in, day out, and the joy received from winning pales in comparison to the sheer frustration the average contemporary player will experience on a day to day basis. And that frustration does grow. Surely, at that point, tilt is the least of a dedicated player’s worries.
As these issues on the mind and body begin to take their tole, the player begins to wonder if what they’re doing is worth their time. If, in the end, it wouldn’t be better to put this energy elsewhere. Gaming addiction, isolation, a fear of the future, and a feeling of emptiness are all common experiences at this point of a would-be professionals life.
Its entirely possible, and should always be considered, that the dedication a player might have at that point is an extension of what they would already be doing anything. An excuse to tell themselves that they aren’t just playing games, but that they are working towards something greater. That ultimately they aren’t wasting their days away. And that’s the biggest trap of all: they really might actually be wasting their days away, with nothing but an addiction to the feeling of false progress their game provides as reinforcement. Their destination may simply be a void.
All the while, time is constantly passing both of the player’s by. And while neither is necessarily learning anything that will help them after their time as an athlete has come and gone, the player of the traditional sport will still have a lot to show for their efforts in terms of health, well being, and skill, even if they fail to become a professional.
The esport industry is a lucrative one thats stumbling in its infancy. And the the lives of the esport professionals and amateurs trying to capitalize are, ultimately, prone to more injury than any player of traditional sports. For the esports professional? If they fail to become a long-term competitor, what they will be left with as a reward for their efforts can easily be considered worse than nothing.