So you want to go pro? (Part 2)



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 my people call your 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, let them do it. 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 question below or you can hit me up on my various social media sites or email, all of which are listed under my “CONTACT ME” page

Thanks for reading! Hope I was able to help!


– Ciji “StarSlay3r” Thornton