Over the last few years, the esports industry has rapidly boomed to become one of the most profitable markets in the world. Statistics show that the global esports industry generated $1.08 billion in 2021 – 10 percent more than 2020.
Such humongous profit attracts millions of adolescents from all over the world who want a share of the profits. Nearly 6% of American teenagers have said that they want to dedicate themselves to the esports industry in the future by becoming streamers or professional players. However, there is a dark side to fame and prestige, and many find that they are not cut out to be competitive
Chinese journalist Runfeng Ze uploaded an interview video with a League of Legends professional player, Hanwei “Xiye” Su, who currently plays for Team WE in the League of Legends Professional League. In the video, Xiye explains how he spends his day during the season.
Chinese esports organizations normally rent and renovate a large house into a gaming facility for players to live in during their tenure on the team. They redesign the living room into a practice room where players can practice and train. Guest rooms are modified and turned into dorms with two players sharing a room.
Players must wake up no later than 12:30 P.M. and at 1:00 P.M., all players gather in the practice room and start playing Solo/Duo Queue games to warm up and get themselves prepared for scrimmages at 2:00. Scrimmage games usually last for 3 to 4 hours and players have dinner after scrims.
There is a physical exercise time of 30 minutes after dinner to keep players in good shape. During that period, the team’s physiotherapist would teach players some exercise moves that are beneficial to relieve muscles and prevent potential injuries.
Their schedule after 7:00 PM varies day by day: if they have a scheduled scrimmage game on that day, they play through the game; if they don’t have any scrimmage games scheduled, they turn on their streams and play games in front of thousands of viewers. Streaming is mandatory as it is included as a part of players’ contracts so each player is contractually obligated to fulfill 40-60 hours of stream per month. Almost every full-time streamer earns their money directly from their stream donations, but this is not the case for professional players. Not all of the donations go into their pockets. Instead, they only get a small portion of the donation, with the team taking the majority share. After their daily streams, players generally wrap their days up at 2:30 A.M. and go to bed.
Like traditional sports industries, esports also sees many injuries. Even though esports organizations have started to realize and hire team therapists, it seems inevitable for players to have injuries due to their unusual routine. Spine, arm, and wrist injuries are common among esports players as they spend the majority of their time sitting in front of a computer and playing games.
Most players play competitive tournaments for no more than 5 years; their careers are short-lived. In this fast-paced industry, if players don’t keep up with the status quo, they are left behind and forced to retire. In order to keep being competitive, the only thing players can do is to sacrifice their spare time and play more games.
Besides the physical hardship players have to endure, pressure also comes from outside towards their mental health. Just like in traditional sports, a player’s reputation is crucially related to their in-game performance. If a player steps out and carries the entire team to win a tournament, then that player will get more media coverage and higher strategic priority from the coaching staff. On the other hand, if a player misplays and causes the team a game, that player has to face criticism from fans and the coaching team. Once players decide to play professionally and elevate themselves to another level, pressure and depression will be something that goes around them throughout their careers.
This is the harsh reality of participating in the esports industry. Players have to sacrifice almost everything just to stay alive in the industry. People only see the famous players glorifying themselves on stage which is merely a survivor bias. There are hundreds of thousands of people lurking in the dark and fade eventually.
When being asked what his day is like, Xiye answers with one simple sentence,
“Except sleeping, it’s all gaming.”