Are you a parent worried about your child’s dream of becoming a pro gamer? Don’t worry, you have lots to learn. Perhaps one of the strangest generational gaps is the one between kids who want to grow up and be a pro gamer and their parents who have no clue that esports even exist.
So your kid wants to be a professional gamer? Great! Take this opportunity to teach your kid(s) what being a professional actually means and help them develop some skills they can utilize later in life.
No need to panic. Professional gaming is a real thing and esports are real sports, well, that’s the position you’ll find being advocated here on Cyber Athletiks. Would you panic if your kid wanted to be an Olympic athlete in gymnastics or a pro hockey player? Probably not. You’d foster that motivation and help them develop some of the necessary skills all the while knowing that it probably won’t ever materialize.
If you happen to be a parent that already understands esports and even participates in gaming with their kid, awesome! But what are you doing on this post? Go to the Recommended Gear section to get started on training like athletes together.
WHAT IS PRO GAMING AND WHAT ARE ESPORTS?
If you googled for help regarding your kid wanting to be a pro gamer I’m assuming you have little to no knowledge of esports. That’s ok, you’re a parent, you’re out there every day hustling and kicking ass so your kid can have it easier. You probably don’t have time to read up on esports, especially if you aren’t interested in them.
So I will try to give you the “too long didn’t read” or, tl;dr.
Esports are multiplayer video games played competitively for spectators, typically by professional gamers. A professional gamer is someone really good at a specific game, has gained a reputation within that games community (and often outside of it) and gets paid by either sponsorship, tournament winnings, donations or salaries (or by a combination of these). Multiplayer in esports typically means two teams consisting of one to five players depending on the game title, although 1v1 and 5v5 are the most prevalent.
Check out this video for the esport League of Legends:
I hope this video helps put you in the shoes of your kid. This is what your kid is envisioning when they say they want to be a pro gamer, something more akin to professional sports. The fear parents experience with gaming often comes from the stereotypes and misconceptions around gaming.
WAIT…ARE YOU SAYING GAMERS ARE ATHLETES AND ESPORTS ARE SPORTS?
While I’d like to move on to the next section, I feel the need to justify this statement. Cyber Athletiks advocates for gamers to train more like athletes in order to boost their competitive performance. I share a lot of tips on how to apply strength and conditioning, nutrition and recovery specifically to esports athletes and competitive gamers, hence the tagline “Esport Specific Training”.
You can find some of these tips over on the Athletiks page. Heck, share them with your kid and encourage them to start training more like a professional if they truly want to be one. So, are gamers athletes and are esports real sports? I discuss this in depth on my post Should Professional Gaming be Considered a Sport?
But I’ll give you the tl;dr again.
Professor Ingo Froböse actually studied the demands placed on players who compete in esports.
Here are some interesting points found by Professor Ingo Froböse’s research:
- esports athletes can achieve up to 400 movements on the keyboard and mouse per minute
- various parts of the brain are being used simultaneously
- esports athletes are exposed to physical strains similar to those in other sports
- the needed hand-eye-coordination goes far beyond table tennis as both hands work asymmetrically
- the amount of cortisol produced is about the same level as that of a race-car driver
- esports athletes have a pulse as high as 160-180 beats per minute (akin to fast running)
- esports can be just as demanding as traditional sports
Professor Ingo Froböse has been studying esports at the German Sports University of Cologne for over five years now. This is why I promote esport specific training for gamers because any sport benefits from sport specific training and Professor Ingo Froböse warns that the lack of physical preparedness and athletic training in esports is detrimental to both the health and performance of players.
BUT I WANT MY KID TO PLAY MORE TRADITIONAL SPORTS
That’s fair. But at the end of the day, you don’t get to pick and chose what your kid(s) are interested in. If esports are their passion, you’re likely not going to persuade them into something else.
Besides, how much cooler is this compared to watching baseball? (no offence).
And before you get all up in arms about promoting guns and violence, I’m not suggesting your 6-year-old play this (although many pros started at a very young age). When you play a game like the one in the video the graphics don’t matter. In fact, many pros tweak their settings to bring down the visuals to boost in-game performance.
You wouldn’t say chess is promoting violence because bishops are murdering pawns. This is like chess, but with guns. Unless you understand the game and the metagame then it’s hard to imagine that the guns and blood don’t matter. It’s the strategy, the communication and the perfectly executed tactics that bring joy, not the killing.
CAN MY KID ACTUALLY BECOME A PRO GAMER?
This is where we’ll probably agree. Can they? Maybe. Will they? Probably not.
Just like any sport, the elite level is reserved for the naturally gifted and the extremely hard working. That doesn’t mean you should give your kid a hard dose of reality. Having passion and dreams foster motivation. Esports requires an immense amount of learning, especially game titles like League of Legends, where the most critical skill is arguably learning.
I would suggest getting your kid to check out my very detailed three page post How to be a Pro Gamer – ULTIMATE Guide where I discuss the often neglected aspects of what’s needed to become a pro gamer (i.e., the aspects outside of gaming).
TRYING TO BE A PRO GAMER STILL HAS MERIT FOR KIDS
Trying to be a professional anything is difficult and trying to be a professional gamer is no different. Assuming your kid is already showing potential to be in the top ranks, there are lots of skills they need to start developing and perfect in order to be a pro, such as:
- constant learning
- discipline in practice
- being a team player
- performing under pressure
- anger management
- improve health
- improve mental health
The great thing is, if they’re taking things seriously, all of this can be done mostly on their own. It will be a lot easier and more pleasant if they aren’t fighting with their parents every step of the way. By the way, take a look at that list again. These are universal skills that can be applied to almost any career.
When I was 15 years old, I was obsessed with an esport called counter-strike. Esports was still very underground at this time. I became interested in the more competitive scene of counter-strike and committed to pursuing the goal of becoming more competitive. What did I do? I got a part-time dishwashing job, saved up and bought a computer that allowed me to reach max performance. As I put a team together with some local friends and online ones, I paid to have a website developed for our team.
Then, I started sending monthly, handwritten checks (I’m probably older than you think I am) to a company in Toronto so our team had its own server. From there, we organized team practices and entered amateur leagues. I’m not sure my mom had any clue with what I was doing. What strikes me when I go back to these memories is the entrepreneurial mindset I, and gamers alike had back then and continue to have now. There was no coach guiding me every step of the way. I didn’t have my practices all laid out. There was no team already set up that I just had to try out for. All of it was created from scratch by me and a few other teenagers.
And even more striking, none of it felt like work because it was something I was very passionate about.
If you are serious about advocating for your kid to be a pro gamer, check out this great resource. It’s a link to a course by Esports Psychologist Weldon Green. He helps gamers build mental resilience through mindfulness, acceptance and commitment. Heck, make a deal with your kid that in order to keep their gaming privileges, they have to work through Weldon’s online course.
VARSITY ESPORTS & SCHOLARSHIPS
Varsity esports is much more realistic, especially if your kid is already ranking pretty high in their game. The bonus? They set themselves up for success after esports. I discuss scholarships for gamers in greater detail in my post Scholarships for Gamers – Can Esports Pay for College?
Varsity esports is still growing but they’re growing at a very fast rate. In 2014 Robert Morris University created the first varsity esports team in the US and the year 2015 saw the University of Pikeville in Kentucky create their own varsity esports teams. Now, over 100 institutions have varsity esports teams. All over the US, schools are realizing the potential in creating their own varsity teams for esports. There’s even an emerging high school esports scene now which will likely follow a similar growth pattern that varsity esports did.
As a parent, you’ve probably heard of Fortnite by now. In 2018, Ohio’s Ashland University became the first school to offer a Fortnite scholarship. It’s gotten to the point where parents are now hiring Fortnite coaches for their kids in an attempt to increase their chances of obtaining an esports scholarship. Just like piano teachers or golfing instructors, gamers hire coaches to boost their performance and learn at a faster rate.
Want to give your kid an awesome and unexpected birthday or Christmas present? Consider getting them some esports coaching time which you can do by clicking here.
WHAT ABOUT THE NEGATIVE HEALTH EFFECTS FROM GAMING AND SITTING?
I’ll say it again, I advocate for gamers, competitive gamers and esports athletes to take physical training, nutrition and recovery more seriously. I believe esports, like any other sport, benefits from a sport specific training approach and that gamers aren’t performing optimally if they neglect this.
The truth is, your kid is probably spending most of their time sitting, and gaming isn’t the only thing to blame:
- sitting at school
- sitting at work
- sitting to eat food
- sitting while driving
- sitting when out with friends
- sitting during the drive to do something active
- sitting during leisure screen time
Frequent breaks are optimal and this can again be part of a “gaming deal” between you and your kid(s). If you think they’re spending too much time gaming come to a compromise such as 10-minute breaks every hour that require them to move around (it could even be walking up and down the stairs for 10 minutes, although any guests you have over will probably end up calling child protection if they witness this).
But please, this isn’t black or white. Some games won’t end every hour and your kid may be in a match that is being ranked and counts towards their overall rating. Failure to understand this will result in some serious tension. You wouldn’t show up during your kids’ high school basketball game and drag them off the court with 10 minutes still left. With Fortnite tournaments offering hundreds of thousands of dollars to winners, it’s a big deal to suddenly interrupt their gaming session.
HOW TO SUPPORT MY PRO GAMER WANNABE KID?
Take an interest. Offer to watch a pro match with them from time to time. Give them a ride to a local tournament. If an esports event is taking place nearby, go together. Get them a jersey to represent their favourite team. Understand and appreciate the dedication and skill it takes to be a professional gamer. If it was easy, you’d be doing it, because some of the top pros, especially streamers, make more in a year than you will in twenty.
I hope this post made it clear that gaming is not a one-way ticket to dropping out of school and living in the basement, and that competitive gaming is a lot closer to traditional sports than you once thought. Eventually, your kid is going to be out there making decisions for themselves so enjoy the time you have with them now. And who knows, maybe they do make it pro and end up buying you that summer cottage you’ve always dreamed of.
Interested in reading some more on esports? Check out my post Will Esports Ever be in the Olympics? where I discuss the rapidly growing industry of esports and their expansion into the mainstream.
*given the target audience for this post, I feel the need to point out that this phrase means ‘good luck have fun’ and is commonly used before a competitive match by players.