Back in my day “competitive gaming” meant the idiot next to you
who kept spamming the sweep kick in Mortal Kombat.

Overthinking It: Being Too Old to be a Professional Gamer

So, by the time you’re reading this, I would have already celebrated my thirtieth birthday. That’s right, I’m out of my twenties and going straight into my thirties. While Jeane, the nice old lady at my church says “I’m still a kid” and a majority of my customers at my second job (valeting cars at a Japanese restaurant) say “You’re still young!”, I’m considered an old man when it comes to the majority of the video game scene/community.

However, that doesn’t stop me from playing games on my 3DS during between cars or throwing my hard-earned cash whenever Gabe Newell decides to throw a 85% off sale on Steam games because it’s Casimir Pulaski Day. I’ll likely be sitting in the corner of the old folks home yelling at a tiny screen on why my lazyass Caterpie hasn’t evolved yet.

And while society and others like me find it perfectly acceptable for older folks to dive headfirst into gaming and oftentimes be the front runner of its many genres, there are some parts that I do feel like that seem to be heavily young-person oriented. Particularity, I’m talking about the competitive scene.

Yep, this is how I feel if I entered MLG right now.

Like you all know, I’m a HUGE League of Legends fans, as well as a veteran World of Warcraft player (cheapshot time: Alliance > Horde). Also, if you knew me personally (or use Google’s ability to stalk find information about me), I used to be charge of sponsorship/community management for Evil Controllers, which meant I had my finger on the pulse of the competitive gaming scene at all times. That all being said, you can see I’ve watched my fair share of competitive play (read: esports) in my life.

Right now, I’m in talks with my friends in officially forming a League of Legends team. And while we are just making the team, I doubt we’ll be rocketing ourselves into Challenger tier anytime soon. Why’s that? Maybe it’s because we’re not fully prepared yet, maybe because the game takes a lot of time to master — which is something we don’t have these days, or maybe it’s because we have a Singed that feeds so much, the other team thinks he runs an Old Country Buffet. But I think the main reason why I have some doubts about going pro is because the majority of us are “old” in the eyes of the professional gaming community.

Karthus…so easy that even the elderly can score a Pentakill.

Don’t believe me? If you take a small gander at this chart, the oldest player recorded is 37-year-old DOOMer, a Swedish Quake professional gamer. As you look down the list, the age of “older gamers”stops at 30, meaning 30+ is old in the competitive scene. Also, I’ve noticed that a good portion of these older professional gamers aren’t in LOL but in fighting games. And even there, the most reputable player in the scene (Justin Wong) is clocking in at 27.

However, this mentality isn’t going to stop my friends and I from making a team (whose name we’ve still haven’t figured out on….I’m thinking of “Safety Not Guaranteed” or “Old But Not Forgotten” or “Please Be Gentle, We’re Old”) . But in reality, it seems like a longshot for us to ever show up in League Championship Series (LCS). Still, we’re not doing it because of that, we’re doing it because it gives us a sense of adventure. But there are reasons why we doubt we can ever be fully competitive, all of them regarding our age.

1. Our Reaction Times Aren’t as Sharp as 18-Year Olds.

When I think about it….I rather have a mature elderly person on my team in COD: Ghosts’ Multiplayer Mode than a whiny 15-year old who just discovered all the curse words in the English language.

As you get older, so does our body. The scientific reason behind all this is that as we age, the two hemispheres of our brain have to talk to each other more often, due to the bridge between them is deteriorating. Which in summary, means that our reaction times won’t be as keen as the younger folks. Consulting with the chart I mentioned earlier, a lot of the older gamers are still young but are likely showing the same symptoms, thus letting younger, newer players have an edge.

At least now I have an excuse for playing horribly in online COD matches. “I don’t suck, I’m just getting old no thanks to my brain!”.

2. The Concept of a “Gaming House”.

It wasn’t until I looked into the lives of LCS teams (like Team Solomid and Dignitas) that I heard of the term “gaming house”. Gaming house is basically what it is. It’s a house where all the members of a team stay together, eat together, and game/scrimmage together. This may sound like a dream to probably a younger person, but as an older person, I kind of like my privacy and my many hours of solitude. And what if I start a relationship? How am I going to explain Ms. Can-Tolerate-My-Overthinking that I live in a house with four other guys for the sake of gaming? Total date-turn-off right there. And think about it, you may like your friends, but do you really need to see them almost 20-hours a day? And also as I matured, so has my tastes. I don’t think my teammates would like the fact I would spend three hours of my day redesigning the house to give it a new look that I found in an IKEA advertisement.

3. Life Outside of the Game.

This gamer setup is a public service reminder that there is this thing called “outside”. Thank you.

I really like Team Fortress 2. I really like Call of Duty. And I really like Starcraft 2. But you know what? As much as I want to be competitive with them, I have other interests in life. I would like to pursue other things like traveling and seeing the other world. And while competitive players do travel around the globe, they tend to stick to two locations, the hotel where they are staying at and where they do their competitions. As I get older, I’m actually pursuing other things in life. I would like to expand my cooking repertoire and sample dishes from around the world or try to see if I can’t hike more mountains in my life. It seems that if an older gent like myself would enter the competitive scene, I wouldn’t have time to do so.

4. After the Game…What Skills Will You Have to Rely On?

”Mr. Brokowski, there seems be a large gap in your college years. Care to explain?”
“Oh yes, I took two years off to learn how to counter-jungle, sir.”
“Ah yes, it’s listed here next to your skills of “Zerg Rushing” and “Pwning Noobs”.

I fully doubt that the competitive gaming scene is a fad. In my eyes, it’s like the beginning days of snowboarding being accepted as a competitive sport, where it only took a small bit of time for it to be accepted into the Winter Olympics…though I doubt we’ll be seeing DOTA 2 and League of Legends in the 2016 Summer Olympics (then again….it is in Rio….hue hue hue).

When snowboarding and other sports like it were being seriously in the realm of sports, people like Shaun White were making it into their lifelong career. Could the same be said about competitive e-sports? Well perhaps, but you best start young and you better be damn good at it so you can get that sponsorship money. Otherwise, you’d probably used up your good college years while others have had a good head start.

Stepping back for a moment, when competitive Counterstrike was starting to gain ground and MLG was just in its beginning days, I was in college. Now, I was good at the game that I thought about seeing if I could delay college for a bit and go pro….but then I had my logic return to my head. If I could barely dominate a game on DE_DUST, what good would I do in the competitive scene? So I stayed in college and got my degree in Computer Information Systems and now I’m proudly progressing along in my career as an SEO.

But let’s put the situation into the shoes of someone else. Let’s say John Doe was a college sophmore right now was part of Diamond Tier 1 team in League of Legends, which is one small level before being in the big leagues of Challenger Tier. And then let’s say his team got into Challenger tier. It would be easier for John Doe to stop college for a year or so and see if he can make an impact in competitive gaming history and make some scratch on the side.

See it’s kind of easy for him. But for older folks like myself, who are on their path to a career, it’s not that easy. You can’t just up and leave like so. You got priorities like your job, your relationship/family (especially if you got a kid or have one on the way), and other things like mortgages and loan payments.

Going back to John Doe, after the game is done, what does he have? He could go back to college, but he’ll be like that annoying older person in your college classes. And once he gets out, he’ll be far behind others in his age. While he’s starting an entry-level job, others will be upper management.

To put it in another way, look at the PGA. Golf used to be an older man’s sport. But if you’ve been watching these days, you’ll notice it’s beginning to look like a younger man’s sport. Gone are the days of Phil Mickelson and Chichi Rodriguez. Now it’s the days of Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson. There aren’t that many 30+ amateurs entering the PGA now is there? Lot of them start young via college golf programs. Try to take this situation and put it into the competitive gamer scene and you’ll see the exact same thing going on.

In the end, I’m not decrying or discouraging older folks like myself from taking the game seriously to a competitive level. I’m just saying that we more mature folks have an uphill battle to face if we want to go pro or at least take our gaming a bit more seriously. But then again, what’s life or gaming without a bit of a challenge?