So you want to go pro? (Part 2)

READ PART 1 FIRST!

Once you’ve started going to tournament and are starting to get recognized as a solid player there’s still more that you have to do! Part 2 is a bit more about the marketing side of being a pro gamer and comes from my 7 years of marketing experience combined with my personal experiences in the gaming industry over the past 4 years.

What was your name again?… 

Make sure you have a good gamer tag that sticks in someones head and is unique to you. Fatal1ty for example has a short but intimidating name when it comes to FPS games and it’s something you remember. The 1 in his name makes it unique so when you google Fatal1ty you get Jonathan Wendel as the top result and that’s exactly what you want. The key is to make sure that when people google you that they find you quickly and easily and they don’t confuse you with anyone else. There’s probably 2 dozen Death Temptress’s out there, but can you find out which one is me? Nope, but when you google StarSlay3r you find this page and you see results for Ciji Thornton. That’s exactly what you want! You need to choose one name and stick with it. This is your brand. Make sure to pick a name that is not derogatory, insulting, drug or alcohol related or anything with a negative meaning at all to be safe. You need a name that if a company chose to sponsor you they would have no problem plastering it all over their website or product. You won’t find any company sponsoring a gamer whose name is 420King. The same goes for your logo/ symbol.



Make yourself marketable…

What makes you different than the hundreds of thousands of other gamers out there? Why should anyone pay any attention to you instead of the guy sitting two tv’s down from you? Make yourself stand out, make sure you have something about you that is eye catching and makes people stop to see what you’re doing. Kicking ass is one thing but no one is going to stop and look at you just because you have a +25 K/D ratio going on, most of the time they won’t be looking at the screen when passing by but if you have an awesome outfit or bright colored hair or a catchy logo on your shirt they are more likely to look in your direction and then stop and watch for a bit when they see that on top of an awesome look, you’ve got the skills to back it up. Again, don’t listen to anyone who wants to insult you for how you look, wear what you like and trust me… it’s always good to stand out! People who have a unique look will be remembered. Even if your thing is showing up in a suit to every tournament… or a vest (DJVest, for example, in the Street Fighter community)… something that is unique to you is the way to go. Companies love someone who has a unique look.

A lot of it is about who you know…

Some of the best opportunities that you’ll ever get in your gaming career will be thanks to your personal friends or people you meet at events. Make sure to make yourself business cards and take at least 50 cards with you to each event you attend. This does not just cover gaming events like WCG or MLG, I’m talking about everything from CES to SXSW. You never know who you’ll meet at an event so always make sure to go to every event possible and to talk to everyone! Some of my best connections today have come from attending an after E3 party and just talking to people at the party and exchanging contact information. Pro gaming isn’t just about playing games and winning, it’s about getting yourself out there. Your goal is to make sure everyone knows who you are, not just the gaming community for the game you play, but people who play all games on different platforms from all over the world.

Take advantage of every opportunity while you still can…

Most of you who are reading this are probably in your teens or twenties. You’re still young, so take a risk or two. Take advantage of an opportunity that seems like it’s only once in a lifetime, because it probably is. You wouldn’t want to miss out on anything and regret it later, and it doesn’t hurt to try so go ahead and audition for a tv show, enter a HUGE tournament with the best players in the world, enter a contest that requires you doing crazy stunts and who cares if you lose… at least you tried! Some of the most awesome things that I’ve done in my life are because I took a shot and auditioned for WCG Ultimate Gamer and applied to be a runner for the Repo Men contest and wasn’t afraid to just drop everything and travel to Japan last minute selling some of my gaming gear to go and report news about Tokyo Game show and again to go to Germany to promote a new game that wasn’t even out yet at time. Go to auditions, say yes to opportunities that you’re interested in even if it might hurt your wallet at the time, the connections you’ll make and the experience are more than worth it. Be yourself, hope for the best, and have fun! Life is short… enjoy it!

Did I st…st…stutter?… 

Lets say you win 1st place at a local tournament and the local news station wants to interview you really quick about who you are and why you are so damn awesome. The worst possible thing that could happen is that you freeze up or start to stutter or just act super awkward on camera.You’ll notice from watching my interviews that I have no problem answering questions fast and don’t say UM much or have long pauses when talking. The secret is media training. Some companies will offer media training if you get sponsored by them, but for those of you who are just starting out and are camera shy you can look into taking public speaking classes like I did in college. While public speaking classes may not seem like a direct solution to camera shyness, it does help immensely. You’ll find that after taking classes you won’t be saying UM or UH, you will speak louder, more clearly, and with confidence. This is a super great thing to have because when a company wants to sponsor a gamer they also will want you to speak on camera to promote their product or to give a shout out to their company when doing an interview. People will notice if you’re not good at doing interviews and it will definitely hurt your chances of getting more interviews in the future, so investing in some sort of public speaking or media training is definitely a good choice!

Have all your content in one place…

It’s a REALLY good idea to have a .com or .net or both if you can. It’s also really important that your official site be the #1 thing that pops up when people search for your name. Your official domain is where you can show off your skills, post your gaming resume, post your videos, and have contact information so people can get a hold of you for tournaments, appearances, interviews or sponsorship offers. It’s not as expensive as you think to get a website of your own. Considering all the opportunities that can arise from being easily accessible, again… it’s well worth it! Also, feel free to post other content on your site like game reviews, or even have daily postings like Kotaku. There’s nothing wrong with that and if anything having more daily hits is a good thing as it’s more exposure to who you are and what you do. Make sure to link to your YouTube, Twitter and other social networks so that people can friend you and follow you for up to date information on what you’re up to.

Street Cred…

Make sure to keep track of all of your tournament winnings no matter how big or small.Obviously if you win large tournaments that’s going to look best on your resume, but don’t be ashamed to post all of your smaller tournament winnings on your resume as well. Many of these “unknown” tournaments (ie not WCG, MLG, etc) have more participants at one event than WCG will have for the competitive YEAR! You winning a tournament at E3, PAX, etc. should always be noted on your resume. What is optional is to include how much you won. Typically console players don’t earn as much per tournament win so they tend not to put tournament winnings on the resume but still try to keep track of your earnings somehow as it’s a popular question that you’ll be asked in many interviews down the line. Keep this gaming resume on hand because it helps when joining a team and also for interviews as they will most likely want to post your most impressive wins and you want those to be accurate!

Have your people call my people…

Once you start to get your name out there a bit it might help to hire an agent to help you to get noticed by companies, booked for events, get sponsorship or land modeling gigs. My personal experience going this route was not very necessary and seemed like it’d hurt me more than help me as agents wanted to charge me a very high minimum monthly fee on top of taking 20% of any deals they made. This is an example of a BAD DEAL that you’d want to avoid. If you’re already a Justin Wong type of gamer you don’t need an agent and would probably be better off without one. If, however, you’re still working on getting your name out there it might be a good idea. If you DO decide to go with an agent ensure that you work out to where they only get paid if they actually book you for an event or land you an endorsement deal. Also, never sign with anyone that wants more than 25% or that takes a percentage for deals that you yourself landed. A GOOD agent will not charge you if they can’t book you for anything so don’t agree to pay any sort of monthly fee either. The same goes for a manager of a team! Even if you get paid a salary from this team there is no reason for them to take more than 25% of and endorsement deals or sponsorships you get because they just had the connection, it’s your skills and your personality that got you the deal! Don’t get used! Make sure to get EVERYTHING in writing. ALWAYS HAVE A CONTRACT and ALWAYS have a copy of every contract you’re affiliated with on hand.

How can I help you???

Having sponsors isn’t just about having them pay for everything for you and getting you publicity, it’s a two way street that you need to treat as if it was a relationship. You can’t just TAKE TAKE TAKE! Ask the company what you can do for them to make them happy or to better promote their product. Offer to work their booth at an event and compete on the side wearing/using their product. Set up exhibition matches to show off your skill and see if your sponsor is willing to offer some product to people who are able to beat you. This doesn’t just help keep you in tip top competing shape, it also helps to promote the product for your company and gives something back to the community of other gamers who dedicated their time to beating you, so it’s a win win for everyone! Make sure to post links to your sponsors on your official pages and give them shout outs in your interviews. If it wasn’t for your sponsors you probably wouldn’t be able to make it to all the events you go to or afford all the entry fees so thank them! Other companies will notice how you treat your sponsors so negative representation or lack of representation can lead to less sponsorships, dropped sponsorships or even dropping you from the team entirely.

“There is no such thing as bad publicity…”

As long as you don’t do anything illegal or anything that would be considered controversial you’ll be fine. Haters are going to appear and they’re going to hate on you for no reason, made up reasons, or out of spite/ jealousy. You need to realize that only you can make yourself look bad. If others want to dog you for doing what you love, spread lies about you or try to discredit you, just let it go. Ignore it because in the end the only people who will believe it are people who didn’t care for you in the first place (and you don’t really need to worry about those people anyway) or people who just don’t know you yet (and those people can change their opinion of you once they get to know you). Anytime someone talks about you, even if it’s negatively, they are helping to make you more popular, discrediting themselves and making themselves look bad.

If people are talking trash you’re probably doing something right. It’s nearly impossible to be successful in this industry and loved by all. Even pro gamers Fatal1ty and Justin Wong have haters, and 99% of those haters are for no good reason. Take people bringing your name up as a compliment, even if it’s negatively. That person OBVIOUSLY sees you as a threat and is probably a closet fan. ^_~ Often times your biggest hater posts more up to date information about what you’re doing in life than anyone else you know! Thank them for keeping everyone up to date and keeping your name going strong ensuring no one will forget you. ^_^

Well, stay positive and keep your eye on the goal! If you have any further questions let me know by leaving a comment below or you can hit me up on my various social media sites.

Thanks for reading! Hope I was able to help!

 

– Ciji “StarSlay3r” Thornton

So you want to go pro? (Part 1)

Originally posted November 11, 2010. Re-posting with some updates and Featuring due to how many times people ask me about this!

 

Pretty much every day I get the same question via twitter, youtube, email, formspring, etc. and that question is “How do I become a pro gamer?”. Well, it doesn’t happen overnight, it’s not easy, and you most likely should NOT quit your day job, but here’s some tips on how to pursue competitive gaming as a career.

For starters…
Pick the game or games you want to focus on and look for online for local tournaments for those games. If you play Super Street Fighter then a good place to find tournaments is SF4Answers.com and also Shoryuken.com (but don’t think about posting in any threads there… just look at the tournament thread) If you’re into Tekken SDTekken.com is a good site for you. For Guitar Hero and Rock Band you’ll find that Scorehero.com and RockBand.Scorehero.com have really helpful tournament threads. If you’re into FPS games like Call of Duty or Gears of War then you’ll want to check out MLG’s MajorLeagueGaming.com for online tournaments and for tournament dates around the US. Basically your best bet for finding tournaments is to go to the official game website forum although googling for tournaments and searching on craigslist is also a good way to find some tournaments that weren’t well promoted but have some pretty good prizes if you’re good at sifting through posts.

 

Every pro gamer had to get their start SOMEWHERE…
Don’t listen to other people who try to discredit you for winning many local tournaments or tournaments that aren’t considered “elite” to some. If you win a tournament at PAX with 300+ entrants you have officially won a tournament with more people in it than all of WCG for the entire year. Sometimes these “smaller” or “non notable” tournaments as some may call them, have the most amount of participants, the best prizes, and just as much tough competition as any other large scale tournament. Not everyone can afford to fly out to every MLG, EVO or WCG event. Events like PAX are cheaper and more accessible, therefore you get more entrants especially since once you pay for an event ticket all tournaments have free entry. You can’t be a pro without winning some tournaments, so be proud of every tournament you win no matter how big or small. They didn’t GIVE you the prize, you had to work for it… so give yourself some props.

Also, this should be something you do in your spare time, nights and weekends. Do NOT quit your day job to start gaming competitively unless you are offered a salaried position with a professional gaming team (such as Overwatch League). Pro gaming is expensive, and it’s easy to struggle financially if you do not have stable income to cover your living costs as well as the thousands of dollars it can cost to travel around and compete in all of these events. Also, never… I repeat… NEVER quit school to pursue pro gaming. I would NEVER recommend this to anyone. Your education is important! 

While it may seem easy to say, “well I’ll have more time to practice” it’s not necessary to dedicate 70 hours a week to gaming to go pro. I started my pro gaming career while doing marketing work 3-4 days a week and continued it while working 40-60 hours a week doing QA testing. The point of starting off locally is so that competing does not interfere with your work schedule and you don’t waste as much money on competing right off the bat. The goal is to spend little money and earn a lot while gaining experience to take your gaming career to the next level.

Practice Practice Practice!…
As Fatal1ty himself says, practicing is important. You can’t just say “I want to be a pro gamer” and magically be one. You have to practice your ass off. If you know an important event is coming up you should try to dedicate as much time as possible to practicing so that you can place well at the tournament. If you are focusing on one or two games you’ll have to put down all of your “for fun” games for the month or so preceding the tournament to make sure you’re up to par since you’ll be going up against the best of the best at these bigger tournaments. Set up practice sessions with your friends every Tuesday night for example to make practice both fun and competitive, because you know you’d hear it for days if you lost to your best friend! If you don’t have friends who play the same games as you going to a LAN Center or an Arcade is also a good option if it’s available to you.

Make sure to play with some players who are better than you if possible. While it’s fun to own scrubs all day long, you won’t get any better beating people who don’t know any better. Even if you get your ass handed to you by RagingRavenSRK 30 games in a row, when you FINALLY see his pattern and kill him on game 31, you realize you are learning how to fight against a top level player that has taken out hundreds of other competitors so playing against someone with only half of his skill will seem like a piece of cake. On top of learning how to play with the big dogs you’ll also learn a trick or two if they’re willing to share their secrets, and many times they will if you ask nicely. By playing with pros you can learn good Halo sniping spots, learn the best star paths on Guitar Hero or learn a good combo or two in Super Street Fighter or Tekken. No matter how good you think you are, there is always someone out there who is better and there is always something more you can learn.

Stepping up your game…
When you don’t think you can get any better and you feel like you’re just burning yourself out on practicing take a break and research techniques. For Guitar Hero and Rock Band you can improve your scores to get on top of the leaderboards by researching Star Paths and Overdrive Paths on Scorehero.com‘s forums or learning new hand positions/ techniques for nailing solos from YouTube videos. For Street Fighter you can learn new combos by watching youtube videos of top players who use your character vs your trouble characters as well as asking specific questions to the oh so knowledgeable crew on SF4answers.com For most people the reason why you keep failing at the same spot or keep being beaten by the same character is usually because of muscle memory. You’re obviously doing something wrong but you haven’t figured out what it is yet, so stop doing it and figure out what the problem is. On top of watching others doing it the right way, it sometimes helps to record your matches and watch them back after you’re done gaming to see where you went wrong and think about how to fix it. A good device to use is the AverMedia Game Capture HD. On top of using it for analyzing what you did wrong, it’s also good for uploading High Quality videos to your YouTube account.

Take it to the next level…
If you start dominating online and your local scene it’s probably a good sign that you’re good enough to move onto the next level. Save up any profit that you make from your local tournaments so that you can put that toward traveling to a larger tournament such as an MLG event, EVO, Devastation, Iron Man of Gaming, etc. Your average cost for attending a tournament of a larger scale will be anywhere from $500-$1,000 depending on how far away from the tournament you live, your method of transportation, hotel choice, etc. The entry fee for most tournaments alone will be anywhere from $10-$50 or so, and that is usually the cheapest part of competing on a large scale. Carpooling and sharing a hotel with teammates or friends is definitely the best way to ensure you can make it to important events. You should try to attend at least 2 major events per year if you are taking this seriously. While winning a bunch of little tournaments is definitely respectable, if you want a chance to be picked up by a team you have to get yourself to the major events that the team managers will be at.

Be professional!…
You can still have fun at events but it’s best to remain professional both at events and online. It’s great to do social networking on facebook and twitter, but don’t use those social networks to insult others or bad mouth the gaming community, instead use it to make new connections and spread the news about your latest accomplishments. You never know who is following you on twitter so your reputation could be negatively affected if all companies see is you bad mouthing others or constantly complaining.

Use your social networks to follow gaming teams you’re interested in and other pro gamers who play the games you play. You never know, some day a team could follow you on twitter, see one of your YouTube videos and offer you a spot on their team. I’ve had several teams contact me because they’ve followed my progress on twitter and facebook. I was surprised when I went to a SF4 tournament and Jason Lake (Manager of Team compLexity) introduced himself to me saying he followed my gaming progress on twitter. Imagine how bad it would have looked to him if I had spent all my time on twitter bashing other players.

Join a team…
While joining a larger salary paying team is the goal, it doesn’t hurt to join a smaller team to get some experience. Teams like the PMS/H2O clans are pretty easy to get into, they have a couple sponsors and they sometimes cover expenses such as entry fees to events. Applying to be a Frag Doll Cadette is an option for female gamers that will help get you into events (usually all expenses paid) and will also help get you some experience with doing game demonstrations in front of large groups, speaking on camera and they also support competitive gaming by throwing their own tournaments with the Frag Dolls and Cadettes which will help you to gain more experience as well.

Check out the teams that are known for having exceptional players for the game that you play and see if they’re taking applications for joining the team. Don’t think that you can go to the MoB Godfather saying “I’m awesome at games you should put me on your team” though, instead type up a gaming resume and prepare a cover letter saying why you think you’re a good fit for the team and talk about how you can help each other. Go about applying to a team the same way as applying to a job. The bigger the team, the harder it is to join and the more impressive your resume will have to be for them to consider you, but don’t give up! If you are trying to be on a team like MoB for example, they may not want you for this gaming season but it may not be because of your skills, it may be because the slot(s) for that game are full and they need to wait for a contract to expire or for more funds to accept another player, so keep up your gaming and keep in touch with people from that team.

To avoid overloading everyone with information I’m breaking this down into Parts so expect a Part 2. Is there something that you want to know about Pro Gaming and the process of getting your name out there? Leave a comment below. Going Pro is not easy, but it is a lot easier once you have some sort of direction or know how someone else went about it so I’ll try to help as much as I can. Thanks for reading!

 

READ PART 2 HERE

UNDER CONSTRUCTION

I’m currently rebuilding my website. This process will take some time to get everything re-uploaded. In the meantime you can get updates from me by following me on social media.

 

Thank you for your patience!