To many gamers, making a living out of playing video games would be a dream come true.
This dream has become a reality for thousands of professional gamers across the world who compete in various esports competitions across a variety of games.
Big businesses and sports organisations have also bought into the idea of esports in recent years, allowing it to grow into a multi-billion rand industry worldwide.
However, the South African esports market is currently far way from reaching the heights of regions like Europe, North America, and Asia.
To see what the local scene has to offer, MyBroadband spoke to experts in the South African esports community about going professional.
Can you make a living?
Alex Rymill, champion in Telkom’s League of Legends league, said that he doesn’t believe it is currently possible to make a proper living out of esports.
“The only avenue that you could potentially go down in order to do so would be by becoming a popular Twitch streamer,” said Rymill.
Barry Louzada, cofounder of Mettlestate, agrees that South African esports competitors cannot yet make a full living out of esports.
“It is only the top players in the world that are able to do that. It might get to that, but at the moment this just isn’t possible,” said Louzada.
Former MSSA President Colin Webster agreed with the assessment of the local situation, but said that making a living isn’t impossible – provided gamers are willing to move overseas.
“In the MSSA’s experience, those who have made a living out of esports have had to either move to Asia, Europe, or North America,” said Webster.
Making it big
Fortunately, Rymill said the potential is there for South Africa’s top players to step up on the international stage.
“SA gaming is a totally unknown quantity and we have had many star players step up and do incredibly well in some of the international events,” he said.
This was recently proven by top South African CS:GO team Bravado, which climbed to 22nd place in the world by beating the top teams around including OpTic Gaming and G2.
Despite their success, they’re still struggling to afford to be a full-time esports team – with the organisation recently saying they may need to take a break from full-time esports to gather more funding.
Rymill also believes that South Africa’s poor growth as a nation is holding back its esports scene.
“The truth of the matter would be that esports growth is directly proportional to growth of a country and its technical advancements, so as these all grow, so will esports in SA,” said Rymill.
Louzada argued that while we may be behind the rest of the world, it is only a matter of time before we catch up.
“We need to have our own version of esports with our own ‘African’ spin on it,” he said.
Webster agreed that the potential is there for South Africa to forge its own self-sustaining esports scene, but a number of basics must first be reassessed.
“The South African scene is highly fractured, largely due to the role players not fully understanding how the market operates outside of South Africa,” said Webster.
“Mind Sports South Africa has advocated, for many years, that all should work together in order to build a sustainable working model where the amateur and professional aspects are simply two sides of the same coin.”
Becoming an esports competitor
While being an esports pro at the moment may not make you rich, Louzada believes that all gamers should give esports a try.
“Even if you don’t want to compete but you enjoy gaming, give it a watch. Trust me, it is as entertaining as everyone says it is,” said Louzada.
Webster said that prospective esports competitors should also choose a popular game that offers international, long-term opportunities.
“You should be almost blinkered in choosing your game, and when you play it, you should learn as much as possible about the game that you have chosen,” said Webster.
He added that it’s important to keep practising and stay motivated if you want to make it as an esports competitor.