From its humble beginnings in 2007, the Intel® Extreme Masters (IEM) tournament has grown from the corner of a German tech expo into a global event held in stadiums with all sold-out venues and 1 million connected fans watching. In general, electronic sports or eSports have followed a similar trajectory. Today’s professional gamers compete around the world to win grand prizes and fame at eSports events such as the DOTA 2 International Championship and the Intel® Extreme Masters Grand Final. Blizzard *, meanwhile, has built an exclusive stadium in Los Angeles to host and broadcast Overwatch League events. Some universities offer eSports scholarships.
Almost all video game lovers have ever wondered how to become a professional gamer. Whether you are looking to enter solo or team competitions, there is an action plan to start a career as a player.
Ten steps to become a professional gamer
Find your motivation
As with anything else in life, playing eSports for the right reasons is important. The love of competition, the satisfaction of growing as a player and knowing that you contribute to the team and the community are all valid reasons to play.
In the long term, positive motivations are what keep players engaged. Players whose motivation is money, fame, and quick success, on the other hand, may burn out before they even turn pro. Loving the game will make a difference during daily practice as you acquire the skills to become a professional.
Choose your game
The next step is to find your game. There are two schools of thought here: pick a game that’s promising or one that’s already well established.
The value of choosing a game that is established as an electronic sport is that the infrastructure and resources necessary to play professionally already exist. Established eSports titles like League of Legends , Dota 2, and CounterStrike: Global Offensive ( CS: GO ) possess a large dedicated player base and therefore sponsored tournaments with lucrative prizes. The downside is that they are harsher scenarios for a newcomer to break through.
When a game is new and promising, players have the opportunity to help excavate the game and anticipate the most effective available technique (“meta”), which tends to be more volatile and adapt to different styles of play at first. Gamers who founded games like Rocket League 2 and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds 3 , for example, have been propelled into the center of the eSports movement. That being said, there is always a risk that a game’s competitive scene will fail to thrive, and then you will have to choose a new game.
Our advice is to try a few games and stick with the one you really love. You’re going to play that game for a long time.
Join the community
While being a professional gamer is a lot about individual talent, it’s also about the culture surrounding the game. Before spending too much time learning the fundamentals of a particular game, spend some time looking at forums and other places where players hang out. Experience will give you better indications of what is to come, and you will be able to judge whether the path to becoming a professional gamer fits your personal goals and motivations.
Immersing yourself in the game scene is essential to advancing your career, so make sure you enjoy yourself in the company of other players. For starters, the best points of the most effective tactic available are raised on message boards, forums, and YouTube channels. Players must interact with each other to keep up with the evolution of tactics and also to rehearse tactics, thus contributing to the scene to which they belong.
In addition, the community is a powerful motivation to dedicate yourself to a long-term game.
Make sure you are playing with the correct equipment, starting with a good gaming mouse and mechanical keyboard. When it comes to peripherals there are many options, of various sizes, form factors and sensitivity, but it is better to choose the one that works best for you. As an idea, take a look at what eSports pros have to say about the gaming peripherals they use .
Whichever peripheral you choose, it’s a good tactic to use the same mouse and keyboard every time you play. You just have to look at the current professionals. The equipment they use at home to play is the same equipment they will use to compete on stage. Familiarizing yourself with your peripherals makes the transition to a tournament environment easier, where nerves and pressure will appear.
When it comes to hardware, consistency also plays a role. Professional game event organizers know to select system components that will not impede game play with lags or erratic frame rates. The performance of your gaming laptop or gaming computer must also meet these requirements. To learn more about how to improve your gaming experience, check out our guides on what to look for in a processor, gaming monitor , and storage space.
With high-quality in-game matchmaking services and third-party matchmaking services like ESEA, it’s easy to find people to play against. But if you want to win, you will have to practice.
First, master the mechanics of the game. Focus on learning specific game skills until they take root in your muscle memory. Whether it’s the last hit in a MOBA, precision aiming in an FPS, or maximizing actions per minute in an RTS, these skills will never lose their importance. Professional players practice mechanics relentlessly to continue training and make small improvements, but players who are just starting out will improve a lot with practice.
As you hone your skills, start researching the general strategy of the game. A good eSport has many layers of strategy, ranging from positional (for example, the role of a “jungler” lurking between lanes), to first-rate tactics. Understanding your role in a given situation is a good way to start, as the tactic used by the pros, like the near-unstoppable GOATS strategy that dominated Overwatch League Season 1, can be too difficult for beginners to coordinate.
Still, there is a lot to be gained by watching the best players. Both videos and live streams are great resources for learning good gaming habits and provide a benchmark on how you should play.
Later, as you get better, reviewing replays of your own games will allow you to break down your style of play to analyze it and learn from your mistakes. All good players do.
Climb the ladder
To become a professional you have to have a strong desire to win in all phases of the competition. This means topping the leaderboard in pick-up game groups, climbing the ladder when it comes to pairing, and being the last team standing in tournaments.
Familiarize yourself with the hierarchy of competition levels, as each eSport has its own system for incorporating new players. In CS: GO , for example, a player typically evolves from public matches to matchmaking, then progresses to leagues and tournaments. Different eSports will have different trajectories.
As new players rise through the ranks, they will make a name for themselves. This can help them find a place on an amateur team (or a place in a sub-community for solo games) which in turn can be a stepping stone to a professional players organization.
Find a team
When you’ve built a reputation as a serious competitor, find a team. Playing with others, especially those who are better than you, or who have different abilities, is one of the most valuable experiences a player can have.
If you are really good at it, there will surely be a team looking for you. If not, you can test for teams. The Teamfind website, for example, has forums and tools for players and teams to communicate. Discord servers, subreddits, and Steam groups also serve as recruiting bases for amateur teams.
For team games like CS: GO and Dota 2 , you need to learn to play well with others. Find a role that you like and a group of players that you get along well with. But even for solo games like Hearthstone or StarCraft 2 , connecting with a like-minded sub-community can be enriching.
Compete and get noticed
Getting better at playing is only half the battle. The other half is making contacts that will help you move up the competition ladder. When you have managed to set foot in more competitive groups, begin to network. Take advantage of your position as a quality opponent to connect with better players.
Building relationships with better players can lead to more things, for example invitations to private Discord channels, where you will have the opportunity to play exclusive scrims and rub shoulders with elite players. In environments like this is where players are often discovered by professional organizations.
Despite the routine mindset casting a long shadow over eSports, professionals must learn to balance their practice regimen and off-screen activities. According to the professional players we have interviewed , a holistic approach to practice, including proper nutrition, exercise and an active social life, improves concentration and prevents burnout. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle will allow you to stay motivated long enough to develop the skills that will ultimately attract professional organizations.
Live like a pro
Becoming a professional player takes years of hard work and practice, but it involves much more than just repeating routine movements. To evolve as a player, it is important to approach training in a global way, so that it includes the development of social skills, the expansion of your knowledge of the game, finding sources of positive motivation, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.