Playing for keeps in Major League Gaming

Playing video games for money sounds like a pretty fun job. You might not want to drop out of school and commit 15 hours a day to gaming quite yet though.

“Free to Play” is a documentary that gives an inside look at the lives of three professional gamers during “The International,” the first Dota 2 international tournament in Cologne, Germany. In the game Dota 2, two teams of five players compete against each other to destroy the enemy building called “the ancient.”

It is a “combination of football, or soccer, for the Americans, and chess,” Su-Leo Liu, a game analyst/commentator said.

With the biggest prize pool in the history of online gaming in 2011 $1.6 million, the first place team would win $1 million. Teams that placed in the top eight would also receive prize money.

Even though the movie shows the sacrifices and struggles of three gamers with different backgrounds, the players in focus all win prize money and experience some level of success and pride after the competition.

“Gaming is the proudest thing in my life,” Singaporean professional gamer Benedict “Hyhy” Lim said.
Lim sacrificed completing his final exams in school and was forced to retake his last semester. Since his team won prize money, it’s easy to hastily conclude his time spent gaming was “worth it.” But what about the other gamers who sacrificed grades or final exams? Fifty percent of the players and coaches who competed in the tournament went home empty-handed.

Any error can decide your team’s fate. I was disappointed the documentary failed to show the reality of teams who made it all the way to the competition but didn’t succeed. I wanted to know if these gamers went back to school or were just as determined to continue to risk everything.

Gamers are constantly under immense stress as the stakes and the prize money are high. In an article titled “Why Did Korean League of Legends Pro Gamer Attempt Suicide?” the United Kingdom International Business Times reported professional eSports player Cheon “Promise” Min-Ki attempted suicide in March because his team, AHQ Korea, was connected with rigging professional games during the 2013 competition season.

The article said the members of the team were told to lose certain matches by their manager so he could profit off of illegal gambling. Min-Ki’s suicide note said the team manager lied about being sponsored by AHQ Tawian, and he couldn’t deal with the situation anymore.

The rise in eSports competitions with games such as Dota 2 and League of Legends make gamers give up their entire lives for a shot to potentially make a career out of this risky profession.
Ashley Altus is a senior Business Journalism major from West Palm Beach, Fla. She is a reporter for The Lariat.