Getting paid to play video games

Growing up, all we ever dreamed of was someone paying us to play games.

27 November 2017 - 17:28
By Good Luck Have Fun
Image: Scott Peter Smith South African CS:GO gamers battle it out to qualify for the international ESWC earlier this year in Sandton.

It’s been a good few months since the formation of Goliath Gaming. Long enough, we reckoned, to have a catch-up with one of their CS:GO stars, Stefan “NEF” Smit, to see what impact being a paid esports player has had on his life and whether or not it’s completely gone to his head yet.

So, cards on the table, it’s been some time since the announcements that certain teams would begin paying their players, but we’re still pretty blown away that it’s really happening.

Our first question is always about how it felt when they learned they were going to get paid to play video games. We can’t help ourselves. Growing up, all we ever dreamed of was someone paying us to play games rather than our parents telling us to go spend some time outside.

“It was a mixture of excitement and shock that we have been given the opportunity to pursue a long time passion and hobby as a career and be compensated for it.

Professional gaming was always a career, it just wasn’t viable for everyone – at least we are entering an era where it is becoming viable for a lot of people.”

Pretty measured response to be sure, but these guys are professionals now, they have public relations teams training them not to admit they instantly passed out from an overload of excitement and shock, because that’s how it plays out in our minds. Note to anyone wanting to offer any of us money to play games: Bring pillows.

“The uniqueness of GG is that our organisation treats gaming very professionally, being paid is just one of those aspects.

"For instance, we have access to legal advice as well as our public relations manager who seamlessly interacts with our players to update us on all things relevant to the organisation from latest results to potential sponsors, interviews and events. If you haven’t seen by now, we also have our own co-branded fashion line (with Dead Reckoning) which happens to be very stylish and comfortable for esports.”

Bit of a shameless plug, but we’ll allow it. Brothers in esports and all that, plus it was an impressively seamless transition. That media and marketing training is definitely paying off.

One of the biggest problems local pros have always quoted, other than the dreaded ‘L’ word, is that a lack of financial incentive made it difficult to put gaming ahead of their real-world responsibilities. That might certainly have been the case, but the beginning of the professional era doesn’t necessarily mean it’s all plain sailing now either.

“Since joining Goliath I’ve found it a lot easier to spend more time in the game and do individual practice on top of the team practice that was happening. At the same time, there’s definitely more stress to handle not only because of the money but the time investment into game.

"We have all been exposed to new roles, which plays a big factor, and I think everyone has changed in their own positive way since the inception of Goliath Gaming. For instance, Mass shows more maturity during practice and has more focus and input during them.

"I’ve seen improvement in HackeM’s playstyle – he has more confidence taking duels. Golz has stepped up into a captain and in game leader role for the first time and he’s handling the responsibility really well. deviaNt is also putting more time and commitment into the game and it’s showing.

"Massacre is still in school and deviaNt works a full time job. We all have some responsibilities outside of CS:GO but we are slowly changing into more and more commitment.”

Salaries, professionalism, expectation and commitment – all the key ingredients are there. We just have to remember that good recipes also need time and patience. These players aren’t being paid enough to only focus on gaming, though, and being a top-level player is still a massive time commitment.

"We have a fairly strict training regime that we’ve stuck to for some time now, we practice with the team for four hours a day, five days a week.

"Personally, the seriousness to games and practice hasn’t changed. The expectations are the same but better implemented whether it’s practice or professionalism.

"We have a holistic contract which stipulates the expected practice times and behaviors of the players which is monitored by the captains and reported to management.”

Not that we were jumping on the bandwagon or anything, but when this website was initially launched, the announcement of Telkom’s first R1million tournament happened soon afterwards and we were very excited. Premonitions of bright lights and red carpets excited. The reveal of salaried players was much the same, so it’s easy for us to get carried away thinking about how much the scene has changed in just over a year.

It’s easy to forget the downsides and uphill struggles still to be faced before it becomes a truly accepted profession in this country, but there’s no denying salaried players is a massive jump in the right direction. We’ll put off going out and purchasing ourselves some oversized, diamond encrusted GLHF chains for a little while longer.

“I hope it restored some faith in our scene. The international teams have been getting salaries for some years. We need more people to trust that gaming is a big part of the future, invest in it and grow the scene.”

While the professionalism of esports is going to bring more similarities to IRL jobs than we’ve ever experienced before, they way they go about earning a promotion will remain pretty unique.

“I was hoping to shoot my way to a raise! :)”


Written by Good Luck Have Fun, a website that tells local esports stories