Esports Player Welfare | On The Level: NG+ Gaming News

Esports Player Welfare | On The Level: NG+ Gaming News


15 years ago, we heard stories about South
Korea and how people in that country were making a living playing Starcraft professionally,
and that the best were treated like rock stars. Hopefully their trajectory doesn’t follow
that of actual rock stars because…ugh! It seemed like such a foreign concept back
then. Fast forward to today, and professional esports
has become well and truly established worldwide. Players like Dendi and Faker are household
names. Colleges are offering scholarships for the bese in esports, which means a way into college without crippling debt or crippling concussions. And every other weekend seems to host a tournament
that rewards hundreds of thousands of dollars. You may look at this and figure that the world
of esports is all glamour and fortune screaming fans and ad deals like this one. Sunsilk Base Elements? – Geez, you’re a pretty boy.
– Ease up mate. Ey, it feels soft and shiny mate. It’s for blokes! Yup, that’s some Oscar award winning acting right there. But like the Magpies’ acting ability, the
dream of making it rich in esports is an illusion. Let’s start with the biggest honeypot: Dota 2. At the International Dota 2 Championships
in August, winners OG took home $11 million out of a prize pool of over $25 million. And Dota 2 tournaments have awarded $170 million
in prize money since 2011. That is enough money to buy you…infinite
copies of Dota 2 because that game is free to play. Free. To. Play. However, the vast majority of teams will never
see more than a fraction of this. Due to marquee tournaments like The International,
it should come as no surprise that $75 million of this total prize money — 44% of it — has
been earned by only five teams. I play video games to escape the cold reality
of inequality, not be confronted by it. It’s great that the best teams can be so
healthily rewarded, but that’s also the problem with professional Dota: It’s so
heavily top loaded. The concept of a tier 2 or a minor league
doesn’t exist with many games but its especially non-existent for Dota. Valve has the capacity to support amateur
Dota, and it certainly has the funds. It’s income from digital hats alone would
be able to buy an actual miniature hat for every pet dog in Australia. Even a fraction of the International prize
pool would go far in fostering the big names in Dota. But for the moment, if your team can’t qualify
for TI, or the Dota Majors, then odds are your team isn’t earning enough money to
sustain itself. And even if you do, a few bad matches can
leave a team’s members with nothing, especially those whose payments are mostly dependent
on prize splits. However, there are esports that guarantee
its players salaries and working benefits. The Overwatch League promoted its inaugural
season by proudly announcing that its players had salary, healthcare and retirement benefits. Hooray, the $7 billion company achieved the
bare minimum for employees? But even with these relatively respectable
benefits, Overwatch League competitors were still subjected to strenuous working conditions. Just look at the Shanghai Dragons. Its manager Yang Van admitted early in the
season that his players training regime involved 72 hour working weeks. Odds are the people that made the Shanghai
Dragons jerseys had better working conditions. This is not a winning strategy — literally. The Shanghai Dragons ended up bottom on the
Overwatch League ladder with zero match wins. Overwatch, more like Overworked, amirite? No, don’t reward me for that one.
Not now, not ever. At least the members of the Shanghai Dragons
can rely on that base income. The same can’t be said for the vast majority
of people trying to make it in esports. In the fighting game community for instance, there are stories of top-tier players having to skimp on basics like food and accommodation. Pro Street Fighter competitor LI Joe has said
that during tournaments he’s slept on floors, under sinks and on park benches outside. That homeless chic may work for Derek Zoolander
. but it shouldn’t work for the best in Street Fighter And this problem is exacerbated in a local
scene where there just isn’t enough sponsorship money to go around. Some players have a big enough Twitch
following to sustain themselves with subscriptions and donations. But here in Australia, even the best fighting
game players have to resort to working part time to supplement their income. Whether it be as baristas or retail assistants
or insurance reps or… actually, scratch that last one. An insurance
rep getting into fighting it’s way too far-fetched of an idea. This is a vicious cycle, because if they have
to work then they can’t practice to keep up with the pros, which makes full-time esporting
even less viable, which makes them rely on outside work more and more,
and on and on it goes. It’s the second worst infinite combo,
right behind Marvel vs Capcom Infinite. The long and short of it is that it is nigh
on impossible to make any sort of livable income through esports. You literally have more chance of making money
by winning the lottery whilst being struck by lightning all whilst singing Kylie Minogue’s
I Should Be So Lucky. Most likely, you’ll schlep from tournament
to tournament, incurring travel expenses and tournament fees along the way, and if you’re
lucky you may make some of that back. But in the end, it’s a net loss. So that’s been the latest instalment in
the New Game Plus Wet Blanket Glower Hour. But it’s not all bad. I’m neglecting the other vital reason why
so many people in gaming tournaments compete: Because they love the game and the community
surrounding it. And at the end of the day, if you enjoy mastering
a game and proving your worth in public that’s reward enough – money is just a bonus. And besides, at least you won’t have to
appear in the esports equivalent of this… [poorly acted laughter] [despairing laughter] Oh god, it’s terrible!! And that is everything that has happened in
the world ever.

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