Professional Gaming Is Hard

Pro-gamers dedicate long hours honing their skills to compete on a world class level. According to one team manager, in the world of Dota, the stress to win is heavy.

In an interview with Sina Games, Team Newbee manager Tong Xin talks about the pressures his players face going into every game, including their run for the championship. Team Newbee recently won the fourth Dota 2 International Finals, netting the team of five a $5 million prize. That's about $600,000 per player after taxes.

Many members of the Chinese media have painted out the triumph of Team Newbee as five young men who rose to a challenge to take on the world. Tong, who is said to be one of China's most successful pro-gaming managers and coaches, says that's oversimplifying things.

"Of the young men who attempt to go pro, only 1 in 1,000 people can even make it," said Tong. "The chance for a player to become a "top player" is 1 in 10,000."

Tong recounts being put in awkward positions during his time in the gaming industry. He's been approached by parents begging him to return their kids because gaming is seen as a bad influence. He's also seen parents beg him to sign their kids up to become pros, only to have the kids turn out to be washouts.

Professional Gaming Is Hard

Family, Tong says, along with girlfriends, can create issues for players. Oftentimes families disapprove of professional gaming. Having a girlfriend can also be disastrous, as her parents can also disapprove of the boyfriend's occupation.

Where money comes from is another issue for pro-gamers in China, Tong says. There's a lack of professionalism because the owners of the teams tend to be young, wealthy, and showy. Owners will sometimes call their employees to play matches with them and their friends. The point of the match is for the owner to gain face.He adds that owners often have a buddy-buddy relationship with their players, which creates tensions for management.

This lack of top level management and familial pressure is already tough enough for many young people. Tong says his players are all young men in their late teens to early twenties.

Tong also revealed how arduous the training is that goes into cultivating a winning team like Newbee. "The team wakes up at 11:30, they eat brunch, then they start training at 2," says Tong. "They'll stop for dinner at 6:30, and then train for another 6 hours before retiring to bed at 2 am."

They train to win, Tong says. He told Sina Games that before the International, the team suffered from insomnia and gastric issues. He acknowledges that the team is extremely well-pampered, and that the pressures are mental. He said that oftentimes when a player loses, they get scolded by owners and often have crushing guilt that creates sleep issues.

All that said and done, Tong also mentioned the issue of popularity. No, not the popularity of the players, but rather the games they're playing. Tong says the tide of e-sports changes really quick. Games can be popular one day, and replaced with another the next.

Dota 2 tournament photo credit: Darryl Kang

打游戏挣3120万 NB经理:我们的压力你不懂 [Sina Games via iFeng]

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Eric is a Beijing based writer and all around FAT man. You can contact him @FatAsianTechie@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @FatAsianTechie.