Playing to win is one thing. You might play for the glory of bagging a glistening Trophy, so you can laugh at your peasant friends who remain Trophyless because their sausage fingers can’t get to grips with Super Stardust HD. You might play just to see the end credits flash up before Blockbuster calls you and asks why you still haven’t returned Call of Duty 4 yet. But what about playing professionally?
Technically speaking, being a professional gamer means earning enough from gaming to make a living from it. Unless you’re an RTS god living in Korea or your name is Fatal1ty, that’s not very likely. Even so, there’s been a huge rise in gaming tournaments and clans dedicated to sorting out the men from the boys when it comes to gaming.
The main reason is the rise of online gaming. No longer restricted to beating your slightly slow, dimwitted neighbour at GoldenEye because no one else near you can quite work out the controls for it, you can take on the world at any multiplayer game. This generation of games has opened the broadband floodgates and your system of choice lets you take on Americans, Japanese, Europeans and everyone else, with leaderboards to show where you slot in alongside the global gaming hierarchy. Resistance, Call of Duty 4, MotorStorm, Pro Evolution Soccer 09, all of these are examples of popular online games because they light a competitive fire in the hearts of the most passive of gamers. But are you the best?
With global leaderboards, gamers are finally starting to get an idea of just how good they really are and there are more tournaments than ever these days in which they can compete. The types of gamers who go to tournaments aren’t likely to be those who dabble in The Bourne Conspiracy, play a bit of FIFA or buy Far Cry 2 because they saw an ad on TV that made it look good. These types of gamers are the obsessives, the ones who will bring their own pad to tournaments and sometimes even insist on their own custom button configurations. While everyone else moves from one big game release to the next – Resistance to GTAIV to Metal Gear Solid 4 – these gamers will stubbornly stick with their chosen title in the hopes of getting better. It’s not always the case.
Generally speaking, most tournaments run a LAN setup, with qualifiers either held at the arena or online (you can probably guess what kinds of problems arise with the latter method). These will be hosted in venues such as Birmingham’s Omega Sektor and advertised about a month in advance. This time period gives players a chance to hone their skills in time for the actual event and, more importantly, sort out how the hell they’re going to get to the tournament. In nearly all cases, players have to figure out a way to get to the venue themselves and pay for it out of their own fluff-filled pockets.