Sunday eSports: On (Un)professional Gamers


By on December 2, 2012 at 11:30 am

Maybe this is something that’s just infested the communities I’ve experienced over the last decade, but one of the absolute worst traits that has been allowed to fester and spread has been the delusion that gamers over the last few years have adopted when it comes to what defines a professional.

The words “professional gamer” get thrown around like candy these days. I can understand the appeal. I remember watching videos of the early Cyberathlete Professional Leagues and thinking “Holy crap, that’s amazing, how can I get in on that?”. I was so inspired that I ended up spending entire school holidays practicing just to try and climb up the ladder a little further.

But I, nor anyone else that I played with or against, was stupid enough to assume that we were “professionals” in any sense. It wasn’t a question of attitude (a benchmark we would have failed spectacularly) or behaviour. It was just a simple reality.

We were doing this for fun. There was never enough money in it to make a living and, sooner or later, we’d all have to give the game away and begin walking down our own paths.

Over the last few years though, that perception has changed and been warped completely out of proportion to the point where getting $2 gifts from a sponsor and wearing a shirt with some tags on it somehow makes you a professional.

Let me be very clear on this: if you are not earning enough money to make a living, you do not, in this realm or any other that exists, qualify as a “professional”.

Hell, if you don’t earn enough money to pay tax back to the government you can’t really call yourself a professional. You might as well be on welfare (and the sad truth is that a lot of purported pro-gamers were just that — living off the government).

This isn’t some elitist view; it’s pure, cold, hard fact. The literal meaning of a professional, according to Wikipedia, is someone who is “paid to undertake a specialized set of tasks and to complete them for a fee”. is just as precise: “following an occupation as a means of livelihood or for gain”. Other dictionaries that I looked at reiterated the same theme.

only around 20 gamers in Australia from 2000 onwards can actually describe themselves as true professionals, ones who earned enough money to actually have to file a tax return

It seems fairly clear — and yet people have been happy to re-write the definition and market their new one as fact, even if it is about as far from reality as my keg-like gut is from the cover of GQ.

I understand the value of recasting yourself as a professional instead of a competitive enthusiast. It’s more appealing to sponsors, for whom the word professional is associated with certain standards of behaviour, skill and marketability. None of those factors actually change if people start describing themselves truthfully, but it’s all about the perception.

By my count, only around 20 gamers in Australia from 2000 onwards can actually describe themselves as true professionals, ones who earned enough money to actually have to file a tax return (or ones that were in situations where they were living abroad for extended periods for the sole purpose of gaming). And the reason for that pitifully small number is because most of the gamers that received a “salary” received such a small amount of money that they’d have earned more by collecting the dole (I wouldn’t be surprised if some did both).

We are not professionals; we’re enthusiasts. This is a hobby for us. A very competitive hobby, no doubt, but a hobby nonetheless. That may change in the future — gaming isn’t going anywhere, which will only lead to more eSports fans — but the community does itself no favours by closing its eyes and pretending that black is white.

15 comments (Leave your own)

just hold on a second while I get out my small violin


just hold on a second while I get out my small violin

*throws $2 in your hat*
You’re a pro now. Also, you can tell people I sponsor you.


where r all theze ppl pretending to be pros? show them to me…


head over to the cod section of cybergamer.


What the fuck is this article even about? Are there really amateurs who call themselves professional?

head over to the cod section of cybergamer.

Oh, that explains it.

Carry on.


Pretty sweet rant.


Thanks Alex.

I’ve been wondering for a while now about these ‘professional’ leagues – it didn’t make any sense, because I don’t know anyone who actually cares about these ‘professional’ gamers.


I can understand “Highly Skilled” Players, like in comp leagues such as UGC for TF2, but Professionals? Only one’s Ive seen are such things like the DOTA 2 league that Valve personally sponsored.


Naniwa has got to be the most (un)professional gamer out there IMO. I don’t mind him as a player, but as a sportsman he’s just the worst.


This is why in Snowboarding there’s a very clear line between Professional and Amateur. Amateur sounds a bit harsh, but unless you have a signed contract with a major sponsor, you are nothing more than an “amateur” snowboarder.

I think the definition should definitely filter across to the gaming world. It seems too many people bandy around the “pro gamer” tag and it’s getting old.

Good article Alex :)


I think it comes more from their arrogant elitist attitude. Although by definition there is not much opportunity to be a professional in e-sports.


Needed more in this article around unprofessional behaviour like that dick who refused to play a match recently as the other guy was beneath him.


Good read I found, I never knew these kind of idiotic people even existed.


While I enjoyed your article something stuck with me…
Your talking about Professional Competitive Gamers…
Your not discussing Professional Game Testers, they are Professionals who recieve an actual salary, sure they don’t have to be as skilled in some ways as Competitve Players but they are very skilled in others… such as repetitive gamplay to find bugs and give feed back on playability and esthetics and all such things that are required to build truelly well constructed games… The same can be said for Game Reviewers…

In regard to the above reply using Snowboarding as an example I would have to disagree with their point of Major Sponsors… What about Skiing Instructors (and Im talking with experience as an Ex-Skiing Instructor), do they not fit the Benefit of Professional – In many ways they are more Professional then the average joe blow who gets sponsored… In fact at high level competition Instructors are not allowed to compete and only recently have skiing Instructors been allowed to compete at the Olympics… Most Professional Snowboarders (who are sponsored) are what I would call Amatuer/Enthusiasts… The real Professional is the person who does the hard slog… not entitled rich teenagers (which sadly is what it is like in the real world)



People working in Q&A/as bug testers don’t really fall under the purview of eSports, which is the focus of the article, although I do know at least one professional gamer (actual pro) who used his experience to get a job as a bug tester locally.

But again, different topic.

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