Gaming your way to some big bucks
Playing computer games is a serious business, writes Devon Koen
FOR most of us, slogging away in front of a computer screen for hours on end is the way to earn a salary, but for hardcore gaming enthusiasts it could also mean winning big cash prizes doing what they love.
eSports or “competitive gaming” is a new form of competition taking the world by storm and raking in millions for those invested in the online world, says Charles Greeff, 36, founder of Port Elizabeth-based gaming club Sector 17 .
eSports mostly take the form of organised, multi-player video game competitions, particularly between professional players.
Greeff first became involved in the gaming world in 2011 and started the eSports brand, Sector 17, because of the competitive nature of the sport.
Sector 17 was mainly based in Port Elizabeth but as the sport grew “we have evolved and expanded our brand to other cities”.
Currently touring Thailand “for gaming-related business”, Greeff said he enjoyed “the thrills and the adrenaline pumping, as it all comes down to that last play of the game”.
Greeff said although financial reward was important, it was only available to a “selective few professional teams in South Africa”.
“As you start off your profession as an eSports gamer or competitive gamer you need to join a clan or start your own clan. From there you need to sign up your clan for tournaments,” he said.
From there on you will be entered into a ladder stage where your clan has to compete until it reaches division 2.1 and then premium level.
After reaching this level your team will be invited to the master leagues and only then will you qualify for serious financial rewards, Greeff said.
“Last year, Telkom DGl paid out over R1-million in cash prizes to gamers in the master league. There are other tournaments in South Africa where you can win up to R20 000 for your team but there aren’t enough of these tournaments around.”
East London-based eSports enthusiast Sheraaz Nunnian, who has been involved in the gaming world for the past 12 years, said games such as free-to-play, multiplayer online battle arena video game Dota 2 had the highest player prize pools which could reach $20-million (R260-million).
“Other games have competitions and prizes to a lesser value. Players also get endorsements from various companies.
“As with mainstream sports, the financial reward is aligned to your ability as a player – the better you are the more rewards you are likely to enjoy. There are also coaches, referees and commentators who derive financial rewards, so it is not limited to being a player alone,” Nunnian said.
Professional players and gamers could spend up to 42 hours a week playing or practising eSports, said Greeff, adding that although “eSports is fun and safe, like anything else it can become an addiction”.
Nunnian said: “Online gaming is very competitive, so there is the normal rivalry and name-calling between teams.
“It can also be very addictive so it is important to balance time spent gaming with other activities for your physical wellbeing.”
According to Greeff, the top games currently played in South Africa are Counter Strike and Dota 2 for computer formats, while for PlayStation and Xbox, Fifa and Call of Duty are tops.
“Anyone can get involved if they are serious about gaming and enjoy the competitive edge it provides,” Greeff said.
However, eSports could also become expensive, he warned.
“It all depends on which level you like to compete in.
“It’s normally the equipment that is the expensive part but that is in all sports.”
Echoing Greeff, Nunnian said participants of eSports as in any other sport, could get cheap gear or expensive gear.
“It all depends on your budget. You can get the gear that is suited to your budget to start with and upgrade as you go along,” he said.
Considered a distraction from reality, eSports and other gaming platforms have received some negative reviews but according to Colin Webster, who is the general secretary of Mind Sports South Africa (MSSA), eSports has the potential to stimulate the country’s economy.
“eSports should not be seen as a distraction, but as a way to get the South African economy moving. The trick is to get the various South African government departments to ‘buy in’ and promote all aspects of the eSports industry so that South Africa could also become an exporter of games and be able to provide more employment,” said Johannesburg-based Webster.
Part of the International eSports Federation (IeSF), MSSA has, along with 46 other member nations, campaigned to have eSports recognised as an Olympic discipline.
For anyone interested in learning more about eSports and competitive gaming, Greeff and other members of Sector 17 will be at the annual Con.nect convention taking place at Baywest Mall from September 1 to 3.
GAME FACES: Gamers doing what they love best