Gaming rises in popularity, offers potential careers


Courtesy of Brandon Cooke

Junior Jake Willoughby focuses his attention at playing in a NCKR1 tournament.

Golfer Tiger Woods received $2.07 million from winning the 2019 Masters. As a world-ranking athlete, Woods has won the Masters four times, along with countless other competitions. The next Super Bowl guarantees a $118,000 bonus to each member of the winning team. In 2016, the “pool” of winning money was split between 15 NBA Championship players, each taking home around $177,000. But 16-year-old Kyle Giersdorf won $3 million in a Fortnite Battle Royal tournament. 

Fortnite, according to WebWise, is a survival video game where 100 players fight against each other in player versus player combat to be the last one standing. This is one of many popular video games that gamers immerse themselves into daily.

Games like Fortnite now have prize money attached to them, meaning gamers have to spend more hours practicing. Gaming is now similar to sports in that it takes hours of practice a week to get good enough to compete. However, “esports” isn’t as widely recognized as a skilled activity. Senior Luca Ptacek games and streams every day, and has been gaming since second grade. 

“[Gaming is] a trained practice,” Ptacek said. “There’s a practice regimen. But it’s not necessarily the same [as sports]. There’s not as much physical [training] as normal sports …i t’s more mental than physical. It all depends on reactions … there are raw mechanical skills as well, which you can’t practice.”

Ptacek believes that while gamers can be born with natural skill (like sports), some may have to put in more time and effort to get better. Hand-eye coordination and raw mechanical skills are a necessary baseline for being a good gamer. 

Junior Elliot Wilner is in the same boat- he is top 20 percent in the game “Counterstrike Global Offense,” and put in over 2,000 hours of gaming over five years. His freshman year, Wilner started an E-Sports team at Grady. It meets and practices different video games, and competes with different teams and schools around Atlanta. 

Gaming is become increasingly popular across the world, and provides more than just improved hand-eye coordination. Junior Jake Willoughby has gained much more than expected from his gaming experience. 

“Not only have I learned a lot more about self-improvement than I would have otherwise, but I’ve met great friends and mentors, as well as gained great knowledge and personal connections in fields I think I would like to work in when I’m older,” Willoughby said. 

Another perk of gaming is the potential career it offers. Ptacek streams daily and wants to pursue it as a career. This requires streaming every single day, and missing a day or going on vacation could lose hundreds of dollars. Gaming facilities in cities like Los Angeles now have housing and food opportunities for gamers and streamers. They make money through sponsors. 

Wilner, Ptacek and Willoughby all believe there is still a stigma surrounding gamers, which is typically misconstrued and unfair. 

“There is some truth to saying they get paid to sit down and do nothing,” Ptacek said. “But you have to be motivated and passionate about streaming to go live. It takes a lot of mental preparedness. Some days I don’t feel like streaming or don’t want to and to keep growing I have to stream.”