Professional Gamers? They exist?

I’m not sure you’re 100% aware of this but yes, there are people who play video games as a professional sport.  I’m going to ignore the debate about whether or not Starcraft counts as a sport and focus more on on of the pro players Kim “herO” Joon Ho.

Pictured: Sport

Pictured: Sport

Kim is from South Korea, where they treat pro gamers the same way America treats pro football players.  I know it sounds a little strange doesn’t it, something we’re not used to here in Australia.  It’s difficult to get a handle on just how popular pros like Kim are.  

Part of the lifestyle is living in a team house.  The whole team lives, eats, sleeps in the same building so that they can focus on their craft.  Kim is no exception, being part of team CJ Entus,  so public appearances seem to only happen during tournaments or events organised by CJ Entus for the sake of publicity.  Most of the interviews he partakes in are after the series of games he has played.

Kim in his most recent interview. Notice the amount of sponsors (source)

In my opinion it wouldn’t hurt to have professional games become popular in the west either.  When I was growing up everyone was into their sport of choice, my family was into soccer more than might be considered healthy, and I was almost alone being interested in video games.  I know most people never grow up to become professional football players but it would have been nice to have some sort of aspirations of professionalism rather than just be playing what everyone called “silly games.”

In fact if it weren’t for tournaments with their own celebrities, like the Global Starcraft League (GSL), games might not have taken off today in the same manner.  Games like Starcraft and DotA are much more popular in South Korea than they ever were in the west, resulting in the 11 year wait between the initial release of Starcraft and the sequel.   It’s interesting to me though that these games are all manufactured by companies from America, instead of local companies making similar games in a more familiar language for people like Kim to excel at.

All in all, I can’t wait for pro gaming to become mainstream enough that I can say what I watched instead of the Superbowl at family gatherings.

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7 comments

  1. Hey there,
    A great post on a seemingly bizarre version of celebrity. The point you made about perhaps needing some professional Western gamers was really interesting. Do you think that if we, in Australia were more aware of this gaming culture you could have easily connected to those from other countries? We seem to favour sport and give no accolades to gamers even though they are using their mind and overcoming difficult obstacles, do you think it is moving to Australia?
    It would be interesting to wait and find out!

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  2. I believe this is call e-sport and of course, there are many who will not consider a game as a sport. I also think that e-sport is quiet famous in ‘the west’. I never watch any Startcraft league but i had watched some Call of Duty league match and i found that it is very entertaining. I watched Call of Duty league match because i like playing Call of Duty games and i also subscribe to a Youtuber, who is a professional Call of Duty players. Earlier this year, there was a competition where winner wins $400,000, second place $200,000 and third place $120,000(http://www.majorleaguegaming.com/competitions/68).

    This year is also the first time that Call of Duty was included in X Games. (http://xgames.espn.go.com/events/2014/austin/article/10823607/major-league-gaming-host-call-duty-tournament-x-games-austin)

    Many of the professional Call of Duty players have a Youtube channel and they usually post many of their match with their commentary on their channel. Many of the match was hosted by MLG (Major League Gaming).
    (https://www.youtube.com/user/OfficialMLGCoD/featured)

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  3. This is an awesome post, using a celebrity from Starcraft is a really unique and interesting way to look at how E-sports is becoming bigger in the world. I agree we could use professional gamers here in the western world. I love watching E-sports in particular watching DOTA 2 and it surprises me that in Asian cultures they have stadiums packed out to watch 2 teams of 5 vs each other to win money. In the western world this would never be heard of. We would never have a stadium full of people sitting and watching 2 teams fight it out on a digital platform. If you look at the international DOTA tournament this year the prize money roughly 11 million in total with First prize taking just over 5 million dollars.

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  4. Don’t know if you guys have looked into the promotional strategies for League of Legends (LoL), but Riot has openly talked about PR strategies for their players and their online interactions with fans. Because of how popular LoL has become online as both a game and a form of entertainment some of the professional players have become large enough celebrities within the community that they have to learn to manage their image and hire professionals. Furthermore, while South Korea definitely seems to be more into it but we’re also seeing other countries catch up a little.

    Also there are stadiums that get filled out with people watching team fights on digital platforms, last year LoL’s finals sold out LA’s Staples Centre within an hour – probably the most impressive gathering yet http://www.forbes.com/sites/insertcoin/2013/08/24/league-of-legends-finals-sells-out-las-staples-center-in-an-hour/

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  5. Pingback: DIGC330
  6. In cultures where online gaming attracts enormous audiences and gaming communities can have thousands of member then online gaming celebraties are inevitable. However, I would have thought their profile would have been limited to the small screen and a cool user name. Your post enlightened me to a new paradigm about people who REALLY game. Well why shouldn’t they have a fan base. Their interactions and game play would obviously draw attention to them if they are good but it will not be the everyday first person shooting warrior who will achieve rock star status.

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