By Alex Leckie-Zaharic of the New Zealand Esports Federation
Last year, New Zealand sent two teams to the inaugural Commonwealth Esports Championships held in Birmingham alongside the main Commonwealth Games. This pilot event will likely lead into esports becoming a fully medaled event in 2026. This year saw teams across the world including the New Zealand E-Blacks, competing in sports such as Rocket League and Dota 2. Could you be one of the proud Kiwis wearing the E Blacks jersey in four years’ time?
We got our expert gaming and e-sports writer Alex to give us an overview of what’s required to take your gaming to the next level.
What sort of gamer are you?
To succeed as an esports pro is very similar to any sport, you need a healthy dose of natural talent combined with the willingness to sink hours into practicing and improving — whether that be solo or with a coach.
However, if the competitive grind isn’t your cup of tea, becoming a gaming streamer or content creator also lets you embrace gaming in a fun way. “lifestyle” gaming makes their mark by establishing themselves as an entertainer and playing a variety of games in front of a large audience. Streaming services such as YouTube or Twitch.tv offer endless opportunity for anyone put themselves on the gaming map, and to get started it’s often as easy as having a camera and a decent internet connection.
Both avenues allow you to earn money through opportunities such as sponsorships and event appearances, with popular streamers often paid thousands of dollars for a few minutes of advertisement on a stream. Professional gamers can win vast amounts of prize money from events as well (for example the 2021 edition of Dota 2 tournament “The International” had a massive forty-million-dollar prize pool.)
Choose your game and become the best
Many pros in games such as League of Legends have been playing since the early years of the game, but that hasn’t stopped younger players from bursting onto the scene with insane mechanics and the ability to show up the old hands. Some other players train themselves up in a myriad of game genres, waiting for the next big hit to surface so they can pounce and become a foundational member of that community.
The road to becoming an esports pro is rarely straight. Players often find themselves plateauing at various levels of competition, unable to break into the next tier despite their best efforts. Taking advantage of coaching services or engaging with members of the community can help make everything click into place.
If you’re unable to overcome that plateau, sometimes you may need to make the tough call to switch games. While that sounds daunting, if you’ve put the effort in, you’ll have numerous transferable skills that will immediately put you in good stead for the next step of your journey. FPS players from a variety of games pivoted to Valorant when it released and are currently thriving — if you think you can make an impact in another game, don’t be afraid to make that leap.
Be prepared to sacrifice
Often, players must work for years to get their shot, and even then, it’s not guaranteed. Part of your job as an aspiring pro is to put yourself out there, so many dabble in streaming and content creation to build up a following so the right person at the right time notices their skills.
Many players sharpen their skills on semi-professional circuits while studying or working, meaning that if you’re daunted by 12+ hour daily training sessions, you can play in a competitive environment while working towards getting that opportunity to go pro. These days professional gamers often play in gaming houses with nutritionists and fitness specialists much like traditional sports, as both a healthy body and healthy mind will vastly improve your gaming ability. While you may be tempted to have marathon sessions in front of the computer in your hunt to be the best, taking frequent breaks to get some fresh air and eat healthy will go a long way to unlocking your full potential.
And of course, one of the best ways to prepare is to make sure your internet connection has plenty of speed and capacity. The last thing you want is for your game play to be affected due to slow response times or because the connections dropping out as too many people are online at your place.
What to know more about the best internet speeds for serious gaming? Click here.