Giving pro gaming a little love

I came across several posts over the Kotaku article about professional gaming’s economic downturn. Jen Schiller, the author of the article, proceeds to bash the interviewee (David Treacy a.k.a. Zaccubus) and professional gaming in general. After reading the original article posted by Alienware, and then the Kotaku article, and back again I began thinking…”What pissed her off so much?”

A little about professional gaming

The professional gaming industry got little respect for many years until Major League Gaming came into the picture and figured out a way to market it and attract larger corporate sponsors. Before, mastering a video game was mostly a personal journey, and now gamers can turn that into a career. In the past, the only money earned was via prize money from tournaments or corporate sponsorships. Now, gamers can earn wages with a median income of roughly $30,000 per year. Not bad for playing video games.

The interview

The interview with Zaccubus was short and sweet. He’s been involved for many years, and he was asked how the landscape has changed and why it never caught fire on national television. His responses made sense:

Alienware: How has pro gaming changed in the last 10 years?

David “Zaccubus” Treacy: Pro-gaming has always changed due to the nature of hardware, better graphics cards, and new games. But pro gaming has also been a lot like our economy: It grew rapidly over the last decade, then almost imploded on itself.

Will live competitive gaming events ever make it big on U.S. television, like in South Korea?

Every TV show I’ve seen so far has been way too cheesy and not indicative of what pro gaming is about. Trying to squeeze an event into a 60 minute broadcast doesn’t really work for gaming as it doesn’t really work for tennis. But the latter is shown everywhere on TV.

Only recently, thanks to MLG, can we see what gaming events should look like: Great shoutcasting, well presented, and without the need to cheese it up for regular people to understand.

What advice — both encouraging and hard to swallow — would you give to aspiring pro gamers?

It’s not easy to go pro. It takes time and if you don’t pick the right games it could well be all for nothing as the games are always changing. For example, you could spend over two years mastering a certain game only to have it blown out of the water as no one is sponsoring it anymore. So pick wisely. Oh, and don’t rage so much from losses. You only learn from your mistakes.

The interview makes sense. It’s definitely not easy to get into professional gaming. The time you (and your team) have to spend to successfully compete and earn any sort of living is a great hurdle. The answers seemed thought out and realistic.

The counterpoint – Jen Schiller

I had a hard time understanding the article. I read it and read it, and I still can’t figure out why the snarky attitude – especially from another gaming site that is supposed to be the gamer’s guide.

It begins with disrespecting the gamer:

Professional Gamer David Treacy, or “Zaccubus” to his—erm—fans, recently spoke to Alienware about the changing face of professional gaming. Based on his interview, however, there’s not much to talk about.

Discrediting the gamer makes no sense here. I can point to countless streams of gamers that have thousands of fans. I can only imagine the number of fans a professional gamer can gain.

Finally, her personal opinion comes out:

Don’t get me wrong, I love watching people who are better than me at video games play them for money, especially when I don’t know those people.

Oh wait. No I don’t.

Perhaps this is the statement that resonates the truth. Sure, she may not like to watch others play video games. Not everyone does. Most people only watch games when their friends are playing. It’s a past time among gamers, but to discredit the obvious market that watch these tournaments hosted by MLG and other companies is short-sighted. I am completely okay with her opinion, but she approached it in a manner that rather than disagreeing with David Treacy (or professional gaming) she attacks the professional gaming industry in a rather immature manner.

Perhaps she doesn’t view professional gamers as anything special. Perhaps competitive gaming doesn’t seem unique to her. I beg to differ. I ask anyone to play any game with a competitive, team mode by themselves with no communication, and then play with a group of players actively communicating and working together to win. It takes skill. It takes coordination. Like it or not, these professional gamers are celebrities in their own right in their own niche. Just like athletes who play the same games as our youth, it’s a higher level requiring considerable amounts of time and effort.

Finally she says:

Treacy also describes the difficulties that one must endure in order to really make it as a pro gamer, a thankless profession that only pays about $30,000 annually before sponsorships.

I already covered his response, but here’s mine: where did you get thankless? He said it’s hard. You have to choose wisely and there’s no guarantees. You have to put in time. I find myself comparing it to professional sports. On the surface, hitting a baseball, playing soccer (football) or football (NFL) looks simple. It’s a game. It’s fun. It also requires you to put in a ton of work and time in order to do it for a living with no guarantees and often a short-lived career. Example: The average career in the NFL is 3 years. That is – if you make it.

A troll in journalist clothing

This is perhaps the worst thing I’ll say here, but she’s being a troll. I’ve stated before that I believe in better journalism for gaming because frankly, the industry doesn’t have a very good reputation outside our “circle”. The outside world views gamers as violent, immature and unprofessional. Why tear down something that is actually getting more and more respect from outside industries by covering it in such an immature fashion?

Professional gaming is a niche industry within our niche – gaming. Understand it or not, it’s popular and gaining in popularity again thanks to games like Halo and Call of Duty. Now fighting games like Marvel vs. Capcom are making their way into professional gaming as well. It’s an exciting time to see it growing.

Now that you survived my rant, what are your thoughts on professional gaming? What are your thoughts on the state of gaming websites today?

Other coverage: GameJournos

3 Comments Giving pro gaming a little love

  1. Colin

    I agree completely, and I loved this article. Great job.

    The article in question was biased as hell and terrible, she basically re-purposed an interview to suit her argument, picking and choosing quotes. God, it was horrible.

  2. H21

    Colin, thanks for the compliment! We love it when we can hit the nail on the head!

    Her article was so biased it didn’t even resemble “journalism” in my opinion as well as it was odd it came from a site proclaiming itself to be the gamer’s guide.

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