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   제목: Professional gamers, dream job for many amid esports boom
Professional gamers, dream job for many amid esports boom

August 29,2018

Students play "League of Legends" at Game Coach Academy in Seoul. / Courtesy of Game Coach Academy

By Baek Byung-yeul

Becoming a professional gamer has become a dream for many tech-savvy young Koreans as esports have grown into the mainstream on the popularity of online strategy game "StarCraft."

According to last year's survey conducted by the Ministry of Education and the Korea Research Institute for Vocational Education and Training, a pro gamer was the eighth most popular dream job among elementary school students.

As esports are on the rise, more computer academies here are offering classes teaching how to become a professional gamer.

Game Coach Academy in Seoul has been providing such classes since last year. Most students are aged between 12 and 16, and the academy is teaching three popular esports games -- Blizzard Entertainment's multiplayer first-person shooter "Overwatch," Riot Games' five-on-five strategy game "League of Legends" and PUBG's online shooter "PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds."

"The total numbers of students is about 100. We are teaching them how to understand the characteristics of each game ranging from building up strategies to analyzing weaknesses of the students," an official from the academy said.

Students take esports lessons about five hours a week and they are allowed to have as much self-study time as they want. Each student spends 400,000 won ($360) a month.

The average annual salary of pro gamers was about 98 million won ($88,000) according to 2017 data by the Korea Creative Content Agency (KOCCA). Given professional baseball players here receive an average annual salary of 150 million won this year, the salary that gamers make shows why being a pro gamer has become an emerging dream job for young people.

The academy said more people are asking for a curriculum for becoming a pro gamer after esports was featured as a demonstration sport at the ongoing Asian Games held in the Indonesian cities of Jakarta and Palembang.



Korean esports players play "League of Legends" against China during the Asian Games at the Britama Arena in Jakarta, Monday. Esports were featured at the Asiad as a demonstration sport for the first time. / Yonhap

The Korean "League of Legends" team made a successful Asian Games debut Monday as it defeated Vietnam and China in the preliminary matches at the Britama Arena in Jakarta.

Those esports academies are also running a program for those who just want to play a certain online game better. It costs about 200,000 won a month.

Though going pro has become a dream for young gamers, most still have a snowball's chance in hell of making it.

An insider in the esports business said gamers who want to play "League of Legends" professionally must be really good at the game.

KT Rolster, a local esports club operated by Korea's second-largest mobile carrier KT, said it offers talented gamers, who are ranked within the top 100 in the solo queue ladder on the game, an opportunity to showcase their skills.

"As League of Legends is a five-on-five strategy game, we are maintaining the size of our club at 10 gamers. So chances to become a professional gamer are very limited," a KT Rolster official said.

Furthermore, being really talented at the game still cannot satisfy all qualification requirements.

"When we recruit new gamers, we always conduct face-to-face interviews to see if the gamer is suitable for team play," the official said.

The official said there is no standardized form that explains what the right personality is but added the club doesn't employ gamers who have personality disorders.

Many people like to play video games but more people are becoming interested in watching others compete.

Twitch, the world's most popular video game streaming platform, recently witnessed its daily viewership surpass the 1 million mark, more than double the number from April 2015.

SuperData Research presumed the worldwide gaming video content in 2017 was 665 million and had a market size of $4.6 billion. The research firm also predicted the viewership for esports video content will have an annual growth of 21 percent from 2017 to 2021.

Esports themselves don't really help increase the company's profit but still many companies are operating their esports clubs as they believe the emerging sports league has a great promotional impact.

KT Rolster, who began operating its esports club in 1999 when the club ran a StarCraft esports team, said the esports club apparently has helped its mother company in promoting its brand awareness to young mobile phone users.

"We can promote our brand image to young mobile phone users and potential customers," an official said.

The esports club has witnessed the development process of esports for almost two decades and the esports club said the reach of the esports scene is still expanding.

"We can see the esports market is still growing as people are becoming interested with it," the official said.

KT Rolster's League of Legends team is scheduled to compete at the upcoming world championship event in three years. The annual world championship event is one of the most popular esports competitions as fans spent 1.2 billion hours during the last year's event held in China, a huge growth from 370 million hours set in 2016.

As Riot Games has held the annual event since 2011, Korean clubs have shown their strong presence in the event, winning five championships out of seven. KT Rolster also aims to win its first-ever championship this year, which will be held in Korea from Oct. 1 to Nov. 3.



Spectators pack the Britama Arena in Jakarta, Monday to watch the Asian Games' "League of Legends" esports match between Korea and China. / Yonhap

However, being a professional gamer doesn't exactly mean they can make a lot of money.

A former would-be pro gamer, who refused to reveal his name, said there is a lot to consider before deciding to go pro.

The former gamer, who's now in his 30s, currently works at a small trading company in Seoul. He tried to become a "League of Legends" pro gamer, but confessed he couldn't as he lacked the talent.

"At first, I just wanted to become a professional gamer because I was really good at competing with others in the game. Also, I thought there was nothing I could do better than playing this game," he said.

He tried to go pro when "League of Legends" was introduced here in 2011. Though he was a student of a local university here, he only focused only on playing the game and skipped many classes.

"As it has not been long since the game was introduced here, there were only a few players who were good at playing this game. I was one of them," he said.

"So, I decided to compete in a local League of Legends competition with my colleagues whom I met while playing this game together. But we were eliminated in the early stages."

After being eliminated, the former gamer said he had to give up his dream of going pro. For those who want to take this path, he advised they be prepared in case they fail to make it.

"I skipped many classes during college and I was not prepared after graduating school at all. Being a pro gamer looks nice but it is really hard and they should be aware that pro gamers have a significantly brief career," he said.

Selected articles from The Korea Times
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