Why pay R3‚000 for keyboard? For gamers it's life or death

16 February 2018 - 08:32 By Nico Gous
Sasha "Scarlett" Hostyn of Canada competes during the Intel Extreme Masters PyeongChang esports tournament in Gangneung, South Korea, February 7, 2018.
Sasha "Scarlett" Hostyn of Canada competes during the Intel Extreme Masters PyeongChang esports tournament in Gangneung, South Korea, February 7, 2018.
Image: Intel/Handout via REUTERS

The difference between a standard keyboard and a R3‚000 keyboard is virtual life or death. This is big business.

“It’s all down to milliseconds‚” said Barry “Anthrax” Louzada‚ founder of local eSports tournament organisers Mettlestate.

Four South African teams are going to the international eSports tournament World Electronic Sports Games (WESG) in Shanghai‚ China‚ in March with a prize pool of R63 million ($5.5 million). They will represent South Africa in CS:GO‚ StarCraft 2‚ Dota 2 and Hearthstone. eSports is competitive computer gaming.

Louzada has been involved in eSports for over 20 years. He started as a professional gamer before retiring at the “tender” age of 37. He has seen the sport and industry move from the fringe into the mainstream.

“When you watch an event online and there’s over four million people watching the event and that they are giving away $24 million for one single title‚ just shows the difference from when I was playing and I would earn a keyboard and a mouse.”

Louzada said full-time gamers often practise between five to eight hours per day and spend between R30‚000 to R80‚000 on their computers.

“Easy‚ easy‚” Louzada said.

“It’s constantly changing‚ the hardware that is available‚ so it becomes more of a mission to try and keep these PCs up to spec.”

Bravado Gaming CEO Andreas Hadjipaschali said the daily routine of eSports players consists of playing against other teams for three to four hours‚ one or two hours of individual practice and another hour or two watching replays and discussing strategies.

“Included with all of that is all the other external factors‚ like making sure you’re in good shape‚ making sure you are mentally prepared … Nutrition‚ exercise‚ we’ve taken our guys to sport psychologists before.”

Louzada said eSports is often criticised for being an expensive sport‚ but you have to compare apples with apples.

“How much does a decent golf driver cost? … Your green fees are our internet fees.”

The CS:GO team from Bravado Gaming that qualified for WESG recently moved to Phoenix in the United States‚ where they will be based for a year. They chose Phoenix because it is close to Los Angeles‚ where most of the big tournaments are hosted as they try to break into the eSports scene.

Louzada believes the “biggest challenge” eSports faces is the misconception it is only for geeks and nerds.

“People just need to give it a chance. They need to go and educate themselves and find out what they need to about eSports‚ because it’s not just a bunch of kids playing games. There is far more to it than just that.”

Hadjipaschali said: “People don’t realise we live in a digital age now and with that comes an ecosystem. The ecosystem of gaming has moved sport from the field onto the computer.”

Hadjipaschali believes eSports has boomed in Africa over the last two years‚ but the continent still lags about five years behind the global scene.

“What exists in South Africa is a very‚ very small rock in a massive pond … I think the biggest problem in South Africa right now is that there is a very big gap between connecting social gamers and connecting competitive gamers.”